Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Want To Reread

For ThatArtsyReaderGirl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

December 1: Books I Want to Read Again (This could mean books you plan on re-reading OR books you wish you could read again for the first time.)

I was commenting the other day about how my “want to reread” list is getting to be almost as long as my TBR. Sadly I hardly ever feel like I have time for rereads because there are so many books out there that I haven’t read yet. But here are a few I want to revisit.

1. Devil Water by Anya Seton– I read this when I was in college or shortly after. I tend to remember Seton’s books by little facts about them rather than overall plot. Only in this case, I don’t remember anything about the plot! I remember that it took place during a Jacobite rebellion in Scotland (1715 according to the synopsis) but other than that, nothing. Actually, if I had all the time in the world to reread things, I’d reread a lot of Anya Seton’s books.

2. Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray– I bought the first book because I liked the cover, but I quickly got pulled into the plot. It combined a lot of things that I love (feminism, fantasy, the Victorian era) and actually got me started reading YA again. I remember the broad strokes of the plot, but the details are hazy. I’m a little nervous to read it again though, because I’m afraid it won’t live up to my memory of it.

3. Evelina by Fanny Burney – I remember I read this because I heard that the author was a strong influence on Jane Austen. I definitely remember seeing the influence (focus on a young woman, comic misadventures, vulgar relatives, hypocritical society), and wanting to read more of Burney’s work, Actually that reminds me that her other work is still sitting on my TBR.

4. Sophie by Guy Burt– This book is sitting on my shelf. I have a vague memory of picking it up and reading it at some point in my life. I also remember something about it frustrated and confused me. Based on some of the reviews it looks like I wasn’t the only person who was confused. But I do wonder what it was about…

5. Eva Moves the Furniture by Margot Livsey- This is one of several books by Margot Livsey on my bookshelf. I remember at some point about 10-ish years ago I really liked her and read several of her books. But I don’t remember much about them. I picked this one to reread first because I liked the cover. I figure if I enjoy it, I’ll reread the others.

6. Middlemarch by George Eliot– I read this for a class in college. I remember finding it hard to get into, but once I did, I enjoyed it. But I suspect I’d probably get more out of it reading it now. It seems like the kind of story that improves as one matures.

7. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle– I read this as a kid and I remember liking it, and I remember it was about kids on a journey through space and time, trying to find their father. When the recent movie came out I read an article somewhere (I can’t remember where) that discussed some of the religious, political and scientific undertones and subtext in the book. Needless to say, that went totally over my head as a kid, but now I’m curious about them.

8. A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L’Engle– This is actually 4th in L’Engle’s Austin family series. I remember enjoying the series as a kid, and finding it very different from the sci-f of A Wrinkle in Time. The reason I want to read this one in particular was that I recall the main character writing a poem in it, that 12 year old me found beautiful. I’m curious as to whether that holds up.

9. The Quincunx by Charles Palliser– I read this in college and I remember it was a combination of historical fiction and mystery. It was a complex, Dickensian plot, that when all was revealed it was kind of like a puzzle. But I don’t remember the specifics. It had something to do with a kid whose mom dies, and some inheritance. But that’s it.

10. This one is two books I want to reread for the exact same reason.

The Pirate Captain by Kerry Lynne and Exit Unicorns by Cindy Brander– Both books are the first books in a series. I enjoyed both for different reasons (The Pirate Captain was just a lot of fun, Exit Unicorns was a vivid depiction of characters and historical setting) I remember the broad strokes of the plot of each. But that’s all I remember. Both books are first in a series (the sequel to The Pirate Captain is Nor Gold, the sequel to Exit Unicorns is Mermaid in A Bowl of Tears) and I want to continue with both series. But I think I should remember more about how they started.

Non Disney Fairy Tale Movies: The Sequel

A while ago, when our lockdown/isolation/shelter in place/quarantine began I wrote a post of some of my favorite non-Disney fairy tale films for all ages. Since we’re still spending a lot of time alone/indoors I decided to make a sequel. Like the first post, I make no guarantees that these movies are safe for the kiddos. I put a * next to the ones that I think are kid friendly and ! next to the ones that are alright for kids above 12.

Beauty and the Beast

catherine-and-vincent-beauty-and-the-beast-tv-show-31800345-500-333! Beauty and the BeastTV series from the late 1980’s. I wrote a post about this a while ago so, click the link to see it. I know that this was rebooted in the 2010’s at some point, but I wasn’t a fan of the remake. There is a lot of 80’s cheesiness to this show, but that’s part of the charm. It’s about a wealthy NY lawyer whose path crosses with that of a mysterious man-beast who lives in a secret network of tunnels below the city streets. It’s sort of a fusion of romance, fantasy and crime drama. It’s also the work of a pre- Game of Thrones George RR Martin.

penelope9! Penelope– This fantasy features a gender reversed Beauty and the Beast with a great sense of fun and fantasy. Penelope Wilhern is born under a family curse; she’s got a pig nose until she earns the love of “one of her own kind” (the reasoning for the curse is explained in the movie). So he mother tries to find ways to fix her up with blue blooded men. Enter Max, who hits it off with Penelope until he sees her face, and promptly refuses to marry her. This sets Penelope off on a journey of self discovery. The move is one of my “happy” movies: things I watch when I need a mood boost. [trailer]

7765915901c6f3c49a39522017f32300! A Werewolf Boy– In many ways this is similar to Edward Scisscorhands (which I featured on my last list). It’s about a teenage girl who moves to the country and befriends a feral boy who she finds on the grounds of her new home. But his nature may be more animal than human and the beast in him threatens to emerge. [trailer]

Bluebeard

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Image Credit: Britannica.com

Rebecca– This classic novel by Daphne DuMaurier has been adapted for the screen several times. But I think the best bet is Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film. Yes, plotwise there are some significant changes from the novel, but the film still follows the Bluebeard template (a woman married a widower and finds herself haunted by her predecessor) and most importantly, it gets the atmosphere of DuMaurier’s atmosphere heavy novel right. If you want some more Hitchcock films with Bluebeard echoes you can also take a look at Suspicion and Notorious,  but I find this one has the strongest ties to the original tale. [trailer]

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Image Credit: Randompicturesblog.net

The Secret Beyond The Door– Celia marries Mark while on vacation in Mexico after a whirlwind romance. When she joins him in his New York home, she learns some things about her new husband that he left out during their courtship. For example he’s been married before. He also has a son. Celia’s predecessor died under mysterious circumstances, and she start to suspect that she might be next. [trailer]

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Image Credit: Thestar.com

Gaslight-Paula and Gregory get married abroad after a whirlwind romance (notice a pattern here?!) When they return to London and settle into their new home, strange things start to happen. Paula notices missing pictures, strange footsteps at night, and gaslights that dim without being touched. Gregory claims to notice nothing. Is Paula losing her mind, or is Gregory up to something? Or both? [trailer]

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Image Credit: filmlinc.org

Dragonwyck– Bluebeard inspired movies were apparently very big in the 1940’s! This one is based on Anya Seton’s novel of the same name about a young girl whose new marriage is threatened by her husband’s streak of madness. [trailer]

Hansel and Gretel

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ImageCredit: ZekeFilm

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? This 1972 film is sort of a campy horror classic starring Shelly Winters. It’s about Mrs. Forrest (also known as “Auntie Roo”), a lovely old lady with a Christmas tradition of inviting orphans to her mansion for a party. But Auntie Roo has a dark side, and when Katie Coombs and her brother sneak into the party they must fight to get out alive. There’s a lot of camp in this one, especially by today’s standards, but that can be fun – and funny. And once you get past it there’s actually an interesting, dark take on the fairy tale. [trailer]

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Image Credit: 366weirdmovies.com

Hansel and Gretel (2007 Korean) This is sort of a horror- fantasy that may appeal to fans of films like  Pan’s Labyrinth and The Orphanage. It’s about a traveler who gets lost in the woods. He’s rescued by a young girl and brought to her house. It’s a beautiful house, like something out of a storybook. But, as he discovers, it’s a house that hides horrible secrets, and possibly no way to escape. [trailer]

Swan Lake

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Image Credit: Film School Rejects

Black Swan- I was hesitant to include this one  because it’s based on the ballet, Swan Lake, rather than a single tale. The ballet’s plot is based on a number of folk tales. Possible sources include “The White Duck” and “The Stolen Veil” by Johann Karl August Mursaus. But it could have been inspired by a number of animal bride/swan maiden tales. Regardless I decided it was fairy tale enough to count! The plot of the film follows a dancer whose upcoming starring role in Swan Lake pushes her to the brink of madness. In some ways the “fairy tale ballerina on the edge” story is very similar to The Red Shoes, which I featured on my last list. So if you like one, check out the other. [trailer]

Fairy Tale Mash-up (Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, Jack and the Beanstalk and more)

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Image Credit: Theatermania

!Into the Woods (original Broadway cast) Yes, Disney did eventually get to this one in the 2014 film. While that film has it’s good points, I (and many others) felt that it removed the musical’s teeth. And part of the point of the musical is that fairy tales have teeth. And claws. They’re dark, subversive, and not everyone makes it to happily ever after. But they (and Stephelan Sondheim’s beautiful music and brilliant lyrics) also teach us to see complexity. They show us that “witches can be right/ giants can be good/ you decide what’s right/ you decide what’s good.” Here we see a Red Riding Hood and Wolf dripping with innuendo, a Cinderella who finds married life somewhat lacking, and witch who does the wrong things for the right reasons, and the right things for the wrong reasons. It’s been said that The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim was a source of inspiration. If you dig into the lyrics you can analyze them like poetry. The level of sophistication doesn’t take away from the magic of these stories at all. Rather it adds to them, because there’s a sense of danger.   We’re left with a caution “Careful the wish you make/ Wishes are children/ Careful the path they take/ Wishes come true/Not free

Other Non Fairy Tale Fantasy Films

These aren’t based on a specific tale or tales but will probably appeal to fairy tale fans nonetheless.

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Image Credit: EmpireOnline.com

! Ladyhawke– This is an 80’s film in many ways but it’s a good one. I’ve wanted to rewatch it again ever since I read this incredible analysis. It gets into the folkloric roots behind the film and I highly recommend it to anyone interested. As for the film itself, in a nutshell the film is set in the 13th century and is about two lovers who are cursed to be together and apart: she is a hawk by day and he is a human. By night, she is a human and he is a wolf. They can’t really be in one another’s presence except for a brief moment at twilight and dawn. Unless a young thief can help them break the curse. [trailer]

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Image Credit: Tor.com

! Stardust– This is based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman but tonally it’s more in line with The Princess Bride (see below) and old Hollywood screwball romantic comedies like It Happened One Night. But it still works. The story is about a star who falls from the sky and is observed by several parties. One is a trio of witches who believe that eating the heart of a star will restore their youth. One is a prince who needs her power to secure the throne. One is a love-struck young lad whose beloved asks for a fallen star as a token of his esteem. But when he finds her, he finds, not a piece of celestial rock, but Yvaine, a young woman fallen from the sky with an injured leg and a sarcastic tongue. He must get her to his beloved, while keeping her from the others who want her for less noble means. [trailer]

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Image Credit: NBC News

! The Princess Bride– I expect that most of us have seen this movie and so it needs no introduction, but if you haven’t seen this yet, do so immediately. Otherwise you’ll never know the meaning of phrases like “Hello, my name is Indigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die,” “Inconceivable!” and of course “As you wish.” Since you might have more free time on your hands than usual I would also recommend reading the book (even if you’ve seen the movie). If nothing else it will help you appreciate the artful use of the frame story in the film version as a way to incorporate the annotations in the book. [trailer]

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Image Credit: rogerebert.com

Pan’s Labyrinth– This film makes me think about the purpose of fairy tales. They’re an escape, an enchantment, an education, a warning. They serve all of those purposes in this tale of a young girl in Spain circa 1944.  Ofelia’s new stepfather is sent to a remote forest to flush out rebels. He brings Ofelia and her mother. As she witnesses her stepfather’s sadism, brutality and abuse, Ofelia is drawn into Pan’s labyrinth, a magical world of legendary beings. [trailer]

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Image Credit: Parkcircus.com

The City of Lost Children– A mad scientist named Krank has lost his ability to dream. He is attempting to fight off death by stealing children’s dreams. The storyline of the film itself follows Krank’s henchman, Scratch, who kidnaps a 5 year old boy. The boy’s father, (a strongman with a travelling circus) and his 9 year old friend Miette, team up to save him. At times this movie is dark and creepy enough to make you think it’s only intended for adults. But at times it allows its heart to show enough to make you think the intended audience might be slightly younger. The result is a visually arresting, sentimental, provocative, nightmare fantasy ride. [trailer]

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Image Credit: baltimoresun.com

Beasts of the Southern Wild– Early fairy tales served less as entertainment and enchantment than as warnings. I think that’s how to take this film.  In fact, I think watching it at this point in time might be frightening for that reason. 6 year old Hushpuppy lives with her father, Wink in a remote Delta community. When Wink gets sick, nature seems to respond in kind: temperatures rise, ice caps melt, and prehistoric beasts run loose. When the rising waters threaten her community, Hushpuppy goes on a search for her long lost mother. Though this film was made in 2012, the tale of humanity’s seeming inability to live in harmony with nature taking a toll of people’s physical health, seems very apt for today’s world. [trailer]

Top Ten Tuesday: Gothic Romance

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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February 26: Places Mentioned In Books That I’d Like to Visit (submitted by Georgia @justreadthemm)

I wasn’t really inspired by this week’s topic because I felt like I’ve done something similar in the past (see here and here) so I figured I’d do my own thing. I’m currently reading Nine Coaches Waiting By Mary Stewart and it’s reminding me how much I love a good Gothic. Think big creepy houses, a mystery waiting to be solved, a hero who is somehow tangled up in the mystery… I actually came across this little page about the commonalities of the cover designs in the genre.  Anyway, here are some of my favorites.

51k3i-j1fl-_ac_us218_1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-  I doubt that anyone is surprised to see this one here! The British governess who goes to the mysterious Thornfield Hall, falls in love with the master, and gets caught up  the question of what’s going on in the attic is definitely sort of prototypical for the genre. But I also love it for Jane’s complexity as a character. It makes her seem very real in a way that not all Gothic heroines are.

 

41ufepph-wl-_ac_us218_2. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier– Like Jane Eyre, this novel seems to bookend the genre. The commonalities in terms of plot have led some to call Rebecca a retelling. I’d actually argue that a bit, but that’s not really the point here. In this case we have a young woman who marries the wealthy widower Maxim De Winter and moves with him to his imposing family home, Manderley, where Maxim’s late wife, Rebecca, still seems like the mistress of the house.

91n4fz7r-xl._ac_ul436_3. Dragonwyck by Anya Seton– When Miranda is given the chance to be the companion to the child of a distant cousin she leaps at the chance. So she goes to Dragonwyck in the Hudson Valley. Here she meets Nicholas Van Rynn, and his wife, Johanna. Miranda is  entranced with the elegant mansion, and the aristocratic master. So when Johanna dies, it just makes sense to marry Nicholas. But as time passes, Miranda comes to realize that her new husband has dark secrets that threaten everything that she holds dear.

51onssuljil._ac_ul436_4. Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt- When Martha gets a job as governess to Connan TreMellyn’s young daughter she goes to live with them in their Cornish mansion. Alvean, Martha’s charge, is a notoriously difficult child, as her three previous governess’ can attest. But Martha thinks that Alvean is acting out due to the loss of her mother, Alice. She wants to help the girl. As she learns about the family (and naturally, falls in love with Connan…) she discovers that secrets from the past may have led to Alice’s death, and may threaten her future.

51xd7qx0o7l-_ac_us218_5. A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott– Rosamond Vivian meets  Phillip Tempest and is pretty quickly swept off her feet. They run away together to marry, and everything is more or less perfect until Rosamond realizes that Phillip has been lying to her from the beginning. She flees from Phillip thus beginning a “love chase” that is both “long” and “fatal” (see what I did there?) This was first published in 1996, because it was too sensational for publication when it was originally written in 1866.

51hzkq6uiel-_ac_us218_6. Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart- This is my current read, so its hard to say too much about it, since I want to avoid spoilers. But I will say that I’m surprised I manged to go this long without having read it, since I like the genre and the author. Unlike many other books in the genre this takes place in a French chateau rather than an English mansion. Our heroine, Linda Martin, is a governess (quelle surprise!), for Phillipe, a young orphan. Phillipe’s guardian,  his uncle, Leon de Valmy seems charming, but for some reason the young boy is terrified of him…

51y8le-aoal-_ac_us218_7.  Silence For the Dead by Simone St. James– In 1919, Kitty Weeks, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House. Portis House is a remote hospital for soldiers left shell shocked after WWI. Kitty has her reasons for wanting to disappear. But when she arrives at Portis House she learns it was once a private home until the owners left abruptly. Did it have something to do with the nightmare that all the patients at Portis House seem to share? Something that’s so terrifying they won’t speak of it? Kitty’s ally is Jack Yates. He’s a war hero, and inmate, and possibly a madman.

51gkwlv5zql._ac_ul436_8. The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins– Walter Hartwright is an artist who has been engaged as a drawing master to Laura and Marian Fairlie. On his way to Limmeridge House, where the orphaned Fairlie sisters live, he encounters a mysterious woman in white who begs him for help and then disappears. When he arrives at Limmeridge House, he discovers that Laura Fairlie bears an uncanny resemblance to the mysterious woman. Walter soon falls in love with Laura who is facing an arranged marriage to Sir Percival Glyde. That marriage will bring her, Walter, and Marian into contact with Glyde’s mysterious friend Count Fosco, as well as a fortune and a lot of secrets.

51mn5td6ql._ac_ul436_9. The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley- Archaeologist Verity Grey is sent to the Scottish Borderlands because her boss is convinced that it is the resting place of the lost Ninth Roman Legion. His reasoning is based on the fact that a local boy has seen a ghostly soldier wandering the fields, and the owner of a remote manor house is convinced that his property contains the bones of the lost legion. So Verity is a bit skeptical when she arrives but she is joined in the excavation by a number of colleagues, including the handsome David… But as they investigate the Ninth Legion they learn that some secrets may be buried for a good reason…

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Lesser Known Romances

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday;

February 13: Love Freebie (Romances, swoons, OTPs, kisses, sexy scenes, etc.)

I feel like a lot of my favorite romances are pretty well known.  I love Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy and Jane and Mr. Rochester (why do 19th-century male characters never go by their first names?) as much as the next girl.  But this week, I decided to share a few favorites that might not turn up on everyone else’s list.

51bumg7jwll-_ac_us218_1. The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson– Eva Ibbotson was primarily known for her children’s books. However, she wrote five romances intended for older readers (the others A Company of Swans, The Secret Countess, A Song For Summer, and Magic Flutes are also worth reading). They’ve since been re-released for a YA audience. They’re flawed in that they depict relationships with gender roles that are somewhat old-fashioned. But they’re usually sweet enough and fun enough so that it doesn’t bother me too much. I have a fondness for this one. It’s about a Jewish family in Austria. They get out of the country when Hitler invades and make it to England. But they’re separated from their twenty-year-old daughter, Ruth who wasn’t able to get the proper paperwork. Quinton Somerville, a friend of the family, offers to help Ruth. He’s got the papers to get to England, and she can come with him, as his wife. Once they’re safely in England they can get the marriage annulled. Ruth takes him up on his offer, but neither of them counts on falling in love…

51eksizfwl-_ac_us218_2. Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson– I forgot why I picked up this book in the first place. Novels about cranky old men aren’t automatic reads for me. But something attracted me to this book and I’m glad it did! Major Ernest Pettigrew is a retired Englishman who is the embodiment of duty, pride, and traditional values. Major Pettigrew is a widower who is trying to keep his son from selling off the family heirlooms when he finds an unexpected ally in his neighbor, Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shopkeeper. Their cross-cultural romance shocks everyone, themselves most of all. But it also reminds us that while people may seem like opposites, they can still find strong common ground; enough to build the foundation of a relationship. And it proves that falling in love at 70 is just as sweet as it is at 17.

51guog1xvl-_ac_us160_3. The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee– I can’t remember how I first came across this book. But its a provocative futuristic sci-fi love story. Jane is living a life of luxury on an Earth that’s barely recognizable to the reader. But she’s not happy. Robots have replaced humans as laborers but when a new line comes out they’re also used as performing artists and the wealthy use them as sexual partners. When Jane meets Silver, a robot minstrel, his song convinces her that there’s something more to him than just metal and programming. Something almost human. She gives up everything and she and Silver run away together. As their relationship grows, Silver becomes more and more human. Is that just a clever illusion created by his programming? Is Jane needy and mentally unstable? Or has she seen in Silver something that no one else can?  If Silver is truly capable of loving Jane, he’s in terrible danger, because he’s more than anyone expected. If he has all of the advantages of a robot but can truly feel and love like a human, then actual humans can’t complete.

51l6zlabawl-_ac_us218_4. The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery– I feel like this book has been getting more attention lately which I’m glad about. But it’s still largely unknown, so I feel like it can go on this list. Valancy is a twenty-nine-year-old “spinster” who lives under the overbearing thumb of her mother and her aunt. When she gets devastating news from the doctor, Valancy is motivated to do some living while she still has the chance! She becomes friends with Barney, a handsome free spirit whom her family does not approve of! She confides to Barney that she doesn’t have long to live, and proposes marriage. After all, he won’t have to live with her for long, and it’ll make her happy before she dies. After they marry, Barney and Valancy are happier than they’d ever dreamed. But Valancy’s fate hangs over their heads. Colleen McCollough wrote a novel in 1987 called The Ladies of Missalonghi, with a very similar plot set in the Blue Mountains of Australia. The similarities prompted accusations of plagiarism. Having read both, I think they’re just two novels that have similar plotlines.  I prefer The Blue Castle though.

51f6ex2-vul-_ac_us218_5. Precious Bane by Mary Webb– This is a fairly new discovery for me. Prue Sarn’s “precious bane” is her cleft pallet. It sets her apart from the other girls in her Shropshire community for better and for worse. It isolates her from her peers, but that isolation is also the source of inner strength. Prue’s brother, Gideon, is determined to lift the family out of poverty. He devotes everything he has to make money, which is the very thing that may ultimately destroy him. In a way money is his “precious bane”. It promises a better life but ultimately destroys life and love. Meanwhile, Prue has fallen in love with Kester Woodseaves, a weaver with a gentle spirit. Like Prue, he’s an outsider, due to his gentle nature rather than anything external. Will his good heart allow him to see the beauty in Prue?

51nbhw4ql8l-_ac_us218_6. Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith– A lot of readers compare this book to the (brilliant) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, though it was actually a fictionalized account of the first year of the author’s own marriage. Nonetheless, the heroine, Annie Brown, has a lot in common with Francie, the heroine of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Annie and Carl get married in the 1920’s just before Carl starts law school in the midwest. Annie leaves her Brooklyn home to go with him. Their families oppose the marriage, but they’re young, in love, a bit naive, and optimistic. They face challenges from poverty to more personal conflicts. This isn’t really a plot-driven book. It’s far more character driven. It’s hard not to root for Carl and Annie as they begin to build a foundation for their lives together.

51ktieauzl-_ac_us218_7. The Light in the Piazza by Elizabeth Spencer– I first encountered this novella after seeing the exquisite musical that was inspired by it. It’s a beautiful book as well. Margaret Johnson is an unhappily married, wealthy, Southern woman traveling in Florence with her daughter, Clara in the 1950s. When Clara falls in love with Fabrizio, a young Italian (and he with her), Margaret finds herself torn between two equally strong impulses: to protect her daughter and spare her the pain of lost love or to hope that Clara might be luckier in love than Margaret was. The story is about the courage that it takes to fall in love and the bravery in hoping (in the face of experience) that it might last forever.

31vqaqjxh5l-_ac_us218_8. Passion by IU Tarchetti– This is probably an odd choice. It’s another book that I discovered thanks to my obsession with musical theater. Sondheim’s musical of the same name won a Tony in 1994 but is still one of his less popular works, though it’s one of my favorites. The story is about Giorgio, a handsome, young, Italian soldier. He is having an affair with the lovely (but married) Clara in Milan when he is transferred to a remote base in Parma. There he is invited to dine at his commander’s residence, and he meets the commander’s cousin, Fosca. Fosca is terminally ill, highly strung, and unattractive. She is also madly in love with Giorgio. Though he tries to avoid her at first, Giorgio eventually realizes that Fosca is offering him something that Clara cannot: a pure, true, love that requires his total surrender, yet gives him everything that she has in return.

51x5chc9f7l-_ac_us218_9. Katherine by Anya Seton– Though this book is a novel, it is based on a real-life love story. During the fourteenth century, John of Gaunt, son of a king, fell in love with the already married Katherine Swynford. Even after Katherine is widowed, she and John are prevented from marrying due to politics. However, their affair survives decades of struggle, war, politics, adultery, murder, and danger. I can see where some contemporary readers might see John and Katherine’s romance as one-sided or not very romantic. However I think that is holding a couple in the middle ages to modern expectations. In a time and a place where royal used and discarded mistresses on a regular basis, John maintained his love for Katherine over the course a lifetime, even when casting her aside would have been more politically expedient. He regarded Katherine as his wife and his partner. The descendants of John and Katherine’s children, the Beauforts, include much of the British royal family. For fans of medieval literature this book has appearances from Geoffrey Chaucer (who was Katherine’s brother in law), and includes the writings of Julian of Norwich who also appears as a character in the book.

51lsl4lfqql-_ac_us218_10. Remembrance by Jude Deveraux– Hayden Lane is a bestselling romance author with a problem: she’s fallen in love with the hero she wrote in one of her books.  When a psychic tells her that her obsession may be due to something that happened in a past life, Helen decides to see a hypnotist, who transports her to Edwardian England where she encounters a previous incarnation. But she must go back even further, to the Elizabethan era, before she learns how her earliest incarnation, Callie, was in love with a man named Talis, and how they unintentionally betrayed each other and cursed their future selves. In order to set things right, Hayden will have to figure out a way to break the curse and change history. Some elements of the plot are a bit farfetched (even if you believe in reincarnation, the curses can be hard to buy into!) but it kept me reading. Unlike many romance novels, this doesn’t have a traditional “happily ever after”, though the ending is decidedly hopeful.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Liked But Don’t Remember Much

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

January 23: Books I Really Liked but Can’t Remember Anything/Much About

There are a lot of these. Including many whose names and authors I can’t remember! But these I do remember reading and liking:

51cmzm27jl-_ac_us218_1. Replay by Ken Grimwood– This was about a middle-aged man who dies and wakes up one morning and is 18 again. Then he dies again and the same thing happens. So he relives his life in many different ways. Don’t ask me about any of those ways though, because I don’t remember!

 

 

51kqcjspqwl-_ac_us218_2. City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling– I remember that is was about Manhattan when it was still the Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam.  There were a brother and a sister who somehow ended up as enemies and the feud extended through their descendants. Apparently, it’s the first in a trilogy about historical NYC. I can’t remember if I read the other books.

 

51ujrgneuml-_ac_us218_3. City of Light by Lauren Belfer– I remember how this book ended, though I won’t spoil it here. It’s about the headmistress at a school for girls in upstate NY. There’s a hydroelectric power plant near the school and when someone dies at the plant, it brings up secrets about the headmistress’ past.

 

 

41yuqyv000l-_ac_us218_4. The Circus of the Earth and the Air by Brooke Stevens– A man’s wife volunteers for a magic act at a circus. The magician makes her disappear, but she never reappears. He goes backstage after the show, to try to find her, and no one working at the circus seems to remember her taking part in the act. Don’t ask me what happened to the wife though, because I don’t remember!

 

510o1wih4jl-_ac_us218_5. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood– I read this while I was on a Margaret Atwood kick, and while I liked it, it blends in with a lot of the other work I read at that time. But I want to revisit it because Atwood wrote two sequels to it that I’d like to read. It took place in a dystopian future (somewhat familiar ground for Atwood) and was about one of the last humans, Snowman and his involvement with the title characters.

 

41tu5mjgful-_ac_us218_6. Woman at the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy– The main character in this book is in a mental hospital because she thinks she can communicate with someone from the future. It turns out she’s very sane and she can really communicate with the future. I remember there was a point where if she makes one choice the world turns into a utopia. But if she makes the other choice it turns into a dystopia. But that’s about all I remember!

 

51h1fidmd9l-_ac_us218_7. Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith– I was obsessed with this for a while when I was in middle school. It was actually two separate books then, and they were later published as a single volume. It was about a fantasy world where a young girl leads a rebellion against a corrupt king. I remember that it went into what happens after the rebellion which was one of the first times I can remember an author going past the “natural” ending point.

 

51jmlaov-el-_ac_us218_8. Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier– I love Juliet Marillier and I remember liking this book. I remember it was about a land that was under the rule of an evil king who had outlawed magic, but the heroine had something magical about her. I think I read this book at the same time that I was reading a lot of the genre and it gets mixed up with some others in my memory.

 

51ft9lt9c-l-_ac_us218_9. Consider the Lily by Elizabeth Buchan– This took place in an English country house between WWI and WWII. I think there was a love story. I remember that I found it reminiscent of The Secret Garden in some way, but I can’t remember how.

 

 

41q3nn-asxl-_ac_us218_10. Devil Water by Anya Seton– Anya Seton wrote some really good historical fiction. This is included in that category, I think. Unfortunately, all I can remember is that it’s about the daughter of a man who was executed for taking part in a Jacobite uprising. I think she goes to America.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Literary Leaders

For The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday

November 7: Ten Characters Who Would Make Great Leaders (Leaders of what? That’s your decision. Who could lead a country, an army, a book club, a classroom, etc. Or maybe characters that would be trendsetters?)

This week I decided to make things difficult for myself and go for ten fictional books about real life leaders.

51mlcvfodel-_ac_us218_1. Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George– This novel, told in Cleopatra’s own voice, begins with a memory of the three year old Cleopatra witnessed her mother’s death. But the story really starts when the twenty year old Queen of the Nile, sets her sights on Julius Caesar; the most powerful man in the world. She survives his loss, and the defeat of Mark Antony, the only other man she loves. What destroys her, is not these losses. Rather it’s her own pride. She’d rather die by her own hand that be a symbol of someone else’s victory over her. This book combines history with legend so seamlessly that it’s hard to tell which is which. Some of the more outrageous events are factual!

“I realized then how odd it must seem to them to be summoned by a woman. Roman women were at home quietly minding their business or else doing what wives were known to do in joke and song: boss, nag, forbid. As a foreign queen I was the only woman who was their equal and had the power to summon them, question them, and advise them on matters other than domestic details. I thought that a pity; there should be others.”

51lptm9h-zl-_ac_us218_2. Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross– Did she really exist? I have no clue. But she certainly makes a great story! Joan rebels against medieval society’s prohibition against educating women. Following her brother’s death, Joan takes on his identity and takes his place at a monastery. As “John”, Joan distinguishes herself as a scholar and healer, and eventually, is drawn to Rome. As I said, I have no idea if there is any truth to the “Pope Joan” legend, but the novel is definitely historical fiction. There are several scenes in this one, where Joan is about to be discovered and is saved from discovery just in the nick of time, in true soap opera fashion. But if you can overlook that, it’s a really fun read.

“As for will, woman should be considered superior to man for Eve ate of the apple for love of knowledge and learning, but Adam ate of it merely because she asked him.”

51qrr9xoysl-_ac_us218_3. Abundance: A Novel of Marie Antoinette by Sena Jeter Naslund- As many of us know, Marie Antoinette was only 14 when she left her home in Austria to become the wife of the Dauphin of France (who was all of 15 at the time). She came of age in a very public environment and had a seemingly good relationship with her husband, though his inability (or unwillingness) to consummate their marriage made what both Marie Antoinette, and the people of France most wanted; an heir to the throne. This book shows her disappointment, eventually leading to isolation. Thus she remains ignorant of the many problems that plague her country. Marie Antoinette comes off as frivolous in the early portions of the book, but as things take a darker turn, and tragedy nears, the use of foreshadowing (and the fact that the story is based on historical events and the reader knows what’s to come) the book instills a strong sense of dread in the reader. It’s a tension that’s only really resolved when the inevitable finally comes to pass.

“I feel only sorrow that I have failed to please. Sorrow-and not resentment-for my mother says that resentment is the most readily visible of all the sinful emotions, but sorrow can enhance one’s sweetness and appeal. Resentment, the empress says, is like a snake that nests in the bosom, and it can turn and strike her who harbors it.”

51h87duc9il-_ac_us218_4. The Sunne in Splendor by Sharon Kay Penman– Shakespeare (who wrote under a Tudor monarch) portrayed Richard III as a bitter, twisted, hunchback who murdered his nephews to secure his throne. Five centuries later, Sharon Kay Penman portrays a very different King Richard. Her Richard was raised in the shadow of his older brother, King Edward IV. When Edward dies at 40, Richard is put in the position of Protector, and he is the target of various conspiracies from those he trusts and those he doesn’t. He “usurps” the throne from his nephews because he believes it to be the best course of action for England as well as the best way to protect the boys. Much is made of the fact that Richard had nothing to gain and much to lose from their murders. In Penman’s eyes, Richard III is a man born into a world of lies, betrayal and manipulation for which his was never suited. He was a man who tried to live honorably while surrounded by deception, and ultimately loved too deeply to survive its loss.

“Richard, might I ask you something? We’ve talked tonight of what you must do, of what you can do, of what you ought to do.But we’ve said nothing of what you want to do.Richard, do you want to be King?”
At first, she thought he wasn’t going to answer her. But as she studied his face, she saw he was turning her question over in his mind, seeking to answer it as honestly as he could.
“Yes,” he said at last. “Yes…I do.”

51x5chc9f7l-_ac_us218_5. Katherine by Anya Seton– This book introduces us to several “leaders”. Some are obvious. John of Gaunt is the Duke of Lancaster, son of King Edward III and uncle to Richard III. There are appearances by Geoffrey Chaucer (Katherine’s brother in law) and a fictional encounter with the saint Julian of Norwich. But I see Katherine herself as leader in a way. An orphan, Katherine finds herself in a loveless marriage to Hugh Swynford, a knight. She bore him two children and helped him to run his estate. After Swynford’s death, Katherine’s path crosses that of John of Gaunt. John falls deeply in love with Katherine and she with him. He cannot marry her for reasons of state, but their affair produced four children who were later legitimized. Their descendants went on to found the houses of York, Lancaster, and Tudor. Even Queen Elizabeth II is one of their many descendants. In Seton’s novel, Katherine herself is a leader with an independent will. She breaks societies strictest taboos to follow her heart, and gives up all she loves when that threatens her conscience.

“Presently comfort came to him, and he thought the she had always given him of her strength though he had never quite realised it until now.
Glory had passed him by; fame too perhaps would not endure; it might well be that the incalculable goddess would decree ill fame as his due. Perhaps there might not be included in his epitah the one tribute to his knighthood the he knew he deserved “Ii fut toujours bon et loyal chevalier” (He was always good and loyal knight)
But whatever the shadowed years might bring, as long as life should last, he knew that he had here at his side one sure recompense and one abiding loyalty.”

51pebgfjasl-_ac_us218_6. The King’s Curse by Philippa Gregory– I have mixed feelings about Gregory as an author. I’ve really enjoyed many of her books, but there have been many I’ve disliked too. I decided to forgo the more popular ones like The Other Boleyn Girl or The White Queen (though I do like both of them) because this fuses together the Plantagenet and Tudor series.  We all know that Henry VIII changed a great deal over the course of his life. In his youth, he was a handsome, charismatic, intelligent, athletic young king. As he aged, he became paranoid, tyrannical, and homicidal. Many historians believe that this change was due to the Kells blood group antigen, inherited by his maternal great grandmother, Jaquetta Woodville, (the main character in Gregory’s The Lady of the Rivers. In this book, Jaquetta, who is a bit of a witch, cursed the Tudor line)  which caused impaired fertility. This paired with McLeod syndrome both caused infertility (or at least very limited fertility) and eventually psychotic changes in personality. The way that  Jaquetta’s curse plays into contemporary historical speculation  is discussed in this blog.  This novel deals with Margaret de la Pole, a deposed royal with a unique view of the deteriorating Tudor court, that eventually led to the toxic, paranoiac atmosphere of the court we see in Gregory’s later installments in the series such as The Boleyn Inheritance and The Taming of the Queen.

“Life is a risk, who knows this better than me? Who knows more surely that babies die easily, that children fall ill from the least cause, that royal blood is fatally weak, that death walks behind my family like a faithful black hound?”

51rs3pyqdel-_ac_us218_7. The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier–  Yes this book is definitely fantasy. But like many of Marillier’s books, it’s got a basis in fact. This book opens Marillier’s Bridei trilogy (followed by Blade of Fortriu and Well of Shades). It deals with the young Bridei, who was king of the Picts for about 30 years in the sixth century. The first novel in the series tells of Bridei’s education under Broichan, the king’s druid. One night, when he is still a small boy, Bridei discovers a baby, left by the Fair Folk (that much is likely fantasy!)  whom he names Tuala. As they grow together, Bridei and Tuala form a bond that is threatened as they both come to terms with the destinies.

“Tales within tales. Dreams within dreams. Pattern on pattern and path beyond path. For such short-lived folks, the human kind seem determined to make things as complicated as possible for themselves.”

51fjvdesonl-_ac_us218_8. The Master of All Desires by Judith Merkle Riley– This is another historical novel, dealing with real leaders that ventures into the realm of fantasy. In 1556, Queen Catherine de Medici is trying to obtain an ancient, cursed object, known as the Master of All Desires, rumored to have the power to grant any wish. The Queen has a few wishes, but first and foremost is getting rid  of her husband’s mistress. However, Sybille Artaud de la Roque, a young poet, has recently come into possession of it, and is tempted to us it for herself. Only Nostradamus, the Queen’s seer knows that terrible things happen to those who use it. With France on the verge of civil war, he must stop both women, before they inadvertently destroy all of France!

“Poverty is the curse of ancient but numerous lineages.”

51c5lkxcvwl-_ac_us218_9. The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis– Most of us have heard of the poison-happy Borgia family. As screwed up as they were, they were certainly influential. The family patriarch was the pope! Sancha of Aragon was also pretty powerful;  a princess of the royal house of Naples. She married Jofre Borgia for political reasons, and soon begins an affair with her brother in law, Caesare Borgia.  But as far as this family goes, Adultery is pretty tame! Sancha’s bigger problem is that her sister in law Lucrezia has a thing for Caseare (yes, her brother), and has a tendency to poison her rivals. So Sancha will have to be sneaky enough to outwit this family at their own games.

“How could you ever have loved a man so cruel?’
Trusia lifted her chin at that, and regarded me intensely; her voice held a trace of indignance, and I understood that the depth of her love for my father transcended all else. ‘You speak as though I had a choice,’ she said.”

51wox42dwvl-_ac_us218_10. The Many Lives and  Secret Sorrows of Josephine B by Sandra Gulland– I’ve never thought of Napoleon as much of a romantic lead. A leader, yes, but not very romantic! In this book (the first in a trilogy) we meet Josephine, born in Martinique, as a Creole girl named Marie-Josephe-Rose Tascher. An arranged marriage brings her to France, where she and her children managed to survive the Reign of Terror. She is widowed, and then meets Napoleon, who she marries as a favor to a friend.. This book ends with their marriage, but the trilogy continues through the years of their marriage and their eventual divorce. Rose, whose name is later changed to Josephine, is a character who we like. And we end up liking Napoleon more than we might expect to!

“He calls me Josephine. He says I’m an angel, a saint, his good lucky star. I know I’m no angel, but in truth I have begun to like this Josephine he sees. She is intelligent; she amuses; she is pleasing. She is grace and charm and heart. Unlike Rose; scared, haunted and needy. Unlike Rose with her sad life.”

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Book Recommendations for Outlander Fans

For the Broke and the Bookish‘s Top Ten Tuesday:

August 15:  Ten book recommendations for ______________: (Skies the limit here…examples: for Hufflepuffs, for fans of Game of Thrones, for people who don’t normally read YA, for animal lovers, for video game lovers, etc.

Maybe it’s the fact that the 3rd season of the TV series is coming up, but lately I’ve been looking for read alikes to the Outlander series. If you haven’t read Outlander, the series is 8 books in at the moment with a ninth in progress (the author says she expects it to be 10 in all) and it follows the adventures of Claire, a WWII combat nurse who falls through time, and her 18th century husband, Jamie Fraser.  Even though the premise is fantastical, these books are really well researched from a historical perspective. Jamie and Claire find themselves caught up in the Jacobite rebellion of 1845 and later in the Revolutionary war. They interact with actual historical figures and at real events. After eight books, the characters start to feel like old friends. So once you finish the series it can be hard to jump into something else. Here are some suggestions:

51byrmqnal-_ac_us218_1. Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati (the Wilderness Series) In 1792, Elizabeth Middleton, a 29 year old spinster, arrives in upstate New York. Her father brought her there with promises that she could be a school teacher, but the real motive was to marry her off to Richard Todd, a physician who is more interested in her inheritance than her. Elizabeth finds her attention drawn to Nathaniel Bonner (son of “Hawkeye” Bonner, hero of James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans). Nathaniel has a strong connection to the Mohican (Mahican) people. His wife was a Mahican woman who died years earlier. The Mahican want to buy part of their land back from Elizabeth’s father. Richard Todd wants it for his own purposes and Elizabeth finds herself sympathizing with the Mahican claim. Meanwhile, her relationship with Nathaniel leads to more conflict between the Mahican and the European settlers.  This kicks off the start of a six book series (it’s followed by Dawn on a Distant Shore, Lake in the Clouds, Fire Along the Sky, Queen of Swords, and The Endless Forest) that follows Elizabeth, Nathaniel and their family.  Outlander fans should be on the look out for a cameo from some Outlander characters in the first book.

“Elizabeth Middleton, twenty-nine years old and unmarried, overly educated and excessively rational, knowing right from wrong and fancy from fact, woke in a nest of marten and fox pelts to the sight of an eagle circling overhead, and saw at once that it could not be far to Paradise.”

51omzinvtpl-_ac_us218_2. The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons (the Bronze Horseman trilogy) -On the day that WWII begins, Russian, Tatiana Metanova goes out to buy some food. On the bus, she meets Alexander Belov, a young soldier in the Red Army. Alexander and Tatiana are drawn to one another immediately, and he helps her bring her packages back to her family’s apartment. That’s when Tatiana discovers that Alexander is the same man that her sister, Dasha, had been talking about falling in love with. Tatiana is very devoted to her sister and refuses to steal her boyfriend. So she tells Alexander that nothing can happen between them. Complicating matters further is the fact that another soldier, Dmitri, has information that could destroy Alexander. And Dmitiri is romantically interested in Tatiana. In order to protect Dasha’s feelings and Alexander’s life, Tatiana and Alexander find themselves draw into a romantic quadrangle, as German forces siege Leningrad.  As the brutal Russian winter begins, Tatiana, Dasha, Alexander, and Dmitiri face starvation, deception and danger. This is the first in a trilogy (it’s followed by Tatiana and Alexander and The Summer Garden). There are also two prequel books that tell the story of Alexander’s parents; Children of Liberty and Bellagrand.

“Tatiana lived for that evening hour with him that propelled her into her future and into the barely formed, painful feelings that she could neither express nor understand. Friends walking in the lucent dusk. There was nothing more she could have from him, and there was nothing more she wanted from him but that one hour at the end of her long day when her heart beat and her breath was short and she was happy.”

515yocsadl-_ac_us218_3. Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon (The Lord John series)- Maybe this is cheating, because it’s technically an Outlander spinoff series, but I’m counting it anyway. We meet Lord John briefly in Dragonfly in Amber, and start getting to know him better in Voyager. The events of this series take place during the events of Voyager, usually while the main Outlander characters are doing other things. Lord John is an interesting character. He’s a good man, and honest by nature, but the reality of the world he lives in forces him to live a lie every day. He’s involved in several mysterious events in this series. There are a few full length novels in addition to this one; Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, and The Scottish Prisoner (Jamie from Outlander is the title character, and a co-narrator in this one) as well as a number of novellas. You find find some information about the books and the suggested reading order here and here.

Tom gave him a look of mingled bewilderment and suspicion, obviously suspecting that Grey had made up the word upon the moment for the express purpose of tormenting him.

51fbqr8a2jl-_ac_us218_4. The Pirate Captain: Chronicles of A Legend by Kerry Lynne (The Pirate Captain series)– This series has faced accusations of being an Outlander rip off (with no time travel) mixed with a bit of Pirates of the Caribbean, but it’s still a fun read in it’s own right. It takes place in the years after the battle of Culloden. Catherine MacKenzie is the widow of a Scottish rebel. She has survived for several years living secretly London. She gets passage on a ship away only, to be kidnapped in a pirate raid. Captain Nathanael J. E. Blackthorne wanted revenge against the men who destroyed his life. He ended up with Cate MacKenzie as a rather inconvenient hostage. They fall in love but have both been hurt in the past, and are both hesitant to trust. They’re also facing several external threats. This series continues in Nor Gold, and Treasured Treasures (coming in late 2017).

Beset by a chill reminiscent of the more sour days in the Highlands, Cate hunched on the trunk, listening to the gale tear at the windows and doors, clawing to violate her solitary bastion. The ship lurched to dizzying heights, and then sickeningly pitched downward, disorienting one to the point of doubting which way was up. The rain a hammering drone, the wind screaming through every crevice, and the grind of planking combined into a din that battered one to numbness.

31mezqr7t8l-_ac_us218_5. Exit Unicorns by Cindy Brandner (the Exit Unicorns series) – In 1968 Belfast, Northern Ireland, the lives of three very different characters intersect. Pamela O’Flaherty just arrived in Ireland, after the death of her father, looking for the man that she fell in love with as a child. James Kirkpatrick is a wealthy industrialist who has lost everything he cares about. Casey Riordan is a member of the IRA who just been released after five years in prison. As the lives of these characters intersect, love for people comes into conflict with love for country. Ireland itself is on the brink of revolution. A civil rights movement is building. The changes threaten the lives of these characters and extend them possibilities  they never imagined. There is also a connection to Ireland’s mythical past that skirts the edges of this story; a sense of a lost magic. The series is continued with Mermaid in A Bowl of Tears,  Flights of Angels, and In the Country of Shadows. Brander is working on the next book in the series.

“From the time I was born, I’ve been surrounded by people who had to be strong everyday just to survive. They had to be hard in mind an’ in heart to get from one year to the next. An’ ye’ve seen my back, I’ve known hatred, come to understand it well an’ promised myself I’d never be vulnerable to it again. But I’d no idea that love could make ye ten times more open to destruction. I’ve had men beat me until I was certain there was only a minute or two left between me an’ the grave an’ yet the fists an’ the knives never hurt the way it does when I think of losin’ ye.”

51f5bryehbl-_ac_us218_6. Lady of the Glen by Jennifer Roberson- In 1682, Catriona (Cat) Campbell first meets Alasdair (Dair)  Og MacDonald. They’re little more than children at the time and even though they know they’re supposed to be enemies, they like each other. As they get older that turns into something more. By 1691, King William offers the Highland clans a pardon for their part in the Jacobite Rebellion, as long as they take an oath of allegiance. The Chieftain of the MacDonald takes the oath. Later, when a regiment of soldiers led by the Campbell clan arrives at the MacDonald  household, Highland hospitality demands that they offer them a place to stay. They believe it’s safe, since both clans took the same pledge.  But the Campbells were under orders from Captain Campbell, to slaughter the MacDonalds,  supposedly to show what happens to those who only took the oath under duress. What followed, became known as the brutal Massacre of Glencoe. The longstanding feud between the two clans threatens to tear Cat and Dair apart as they become pawns in the fight. There are times when it feels a bit like a Scottish Romeo and Juliet plotwise but it’s actually very rooted in real history. Alasdair Og MacDonald was a real person, and he did marry a Campbell (though her name was Mary, not Cat).  It’s good for readers who want a well researched historical romance in Scotland with very little bodice ripping!

Such plain, simple words, and so eloquent a declaration. In that moment he shared all the pain, all the insecurities of an awkward lass made to believe she was worthless to any man but a feckless father who preferred whisky and wagers to pride in himself and his daughter.

51em7j9uqel-_ac_us218_7. A Knight in Shining Armour by Jude Devereaux- Dougless Montgomery had been on vacation in England with her boyfriend, when he ditched her in a churchyard with no money, no car, and no passport. She sits down near the grave of Nicholas Stafford, an earl who died in 1564, to have a good cry. When the earl himself shows up Dougless is shocked to say the least! He says that he’s been falsely accused of treason, and he wants to clear his name. Dougless agrees to help. As he falls in love with Dougless, Nicholas realizes he doesn’t want to leave her and go back to his own time. But when he’s pulled back into his own time anyway, Dougless heads back to the 16th century to find him. I’m not usually a “romance” genre reader but I do make exceptions. This was highly recommended and I enjoyed it. Another book by Deveraux that Outlander fans may like is Remembrance.

My soul will find yours.

51dpf3jtk7l-_ac_us218_8.  Green Darkness by Anya Seton– I think many Outlander fans would like most of Seton’s work. It’s well researched historical fiction with a strong focus on human relationships. I would also recommend Devil Water, which deals with a Jacobite rebellion about 30 years prior to Culloden.  This one is a bit different from Seton’s other work though because there’s a supernatural element. In the 1960’s, Richard brings his new wife, Celia to his ancestral lands. Almost immediately the couple begins to act differently. Richard begins to be cruel and Celia has strange fits and visions. It’s a Hindu guru who eventually figures out what’s wrong with the couple. As things begin to get dangerous, it’s obvious that Richard and Celia need to resolve something that happened in their previous lives in order to be happy in this one. Celia goes back to her past life in Tudor England, where she was a young woman in a forbidden love affair with a monk.  Only by resolving this couple’s tragic end can Celia and Richard find peace in their 20th century lives.

“As there were no real answers in her life. She was in abeyance. Stuck in a pattern of waiting for a future she could not guess.”

51kvyusq41l-_ac_us218_9. The Rose Garden by Susanna Kearsley– Once again I think Outlander fans would enjoy a lot of Kearsley’s books. I also recommend Mariana, The Firebird, The Shadowy Horses, and A Desperate Fortune. I chose this one for the list because it’s features time travel in a more prominent way than some of the others. Eva Ward returns to Cornwall following the death of her sister Katrina. It’s the place that Eva remembers being Katrina being happiest, and where she wants to spread Katrina’s ashes. She renews some friendships, but the Cornwall house just isn’t the same without her sister. When she slips into 1715, and then back to her own time, she worries for her sanity. Eventually her trips to the past get longer. But no matter how long she stays in 1715, no time passes in the 21st century. She returns to the same moment she left.  Eva bonds with Daniel, the 1715 owner of the house where she’s staying, and Daniel’s friend Fergal. Daniel is a widower, a smuggler and a Jacobite. As she falls in love with Daniel, Eva begins to question where, and when she belongs. But even if she chooses to stay with Daniel, how is she supposed to handle her knowledge of the future? And how does she avoid getting pulled back to her own time?

“Whatever time we have,” he said, “it will be time enough.”

61wblmzijl-_ac_us218_10. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (Kingsbridge trilogy)- In the 12th century, Prior Phillip of Kingsbridge decides to build a cathedral. He hires Tom Builder to accomplish the task, which eventually falls into the hands of Tom’s stepson, Jack.  Meanwhile, Aliena, the daughter of the Earl of Shiring promises her dying father that she’ll see her brother, Richard, installed in his rightful position as Earl. But she and Richard are soon cast out of their own when their castle is seized. They end up in Kingsbridge, where Jack falls in love with Aliena. But pursuing a future with Jack might mean abandoning her promise to her father.  The “sequel” World Without End takes place about 200 years later. The cathedral is still in the process of being built, though the characters and events of the first book have become the realm of legend. The third, A Column of Fire, will be released in September. It takes place in Kingsbridge Cathedral in 1558. Just a note, Outlander fans may also enjoy Follett’s A Place Called Freedom, which is a love story that begins in Scotland in the 1760’s and eventually moves to the American colonies.

She looked at his young face, so full of concern and tenderness; and she remembered why she had run away from everyone else and sought solitude here. She yearned to kiss him, and she saw the answering longing in his eyes. Every fiber of her body told her to throw herself into his arms, but she knew what she had to do. She wanted to say, I love you like a thunderstorm, like a lion, like a helpless rage; but instead she said: “I think I’m going to marry Alfred.”

Honorable Mention

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel (Earth’s Children series) I was hesitant to include this series in the list, because while the first book (Clan of the Cave Bear) was great, and the second, The Valley of Horses was very good, and the third, The Mammoth Hunters was pretty decent, the second half of the series showed a steady decline in quality. The Plains of Passage (book 4) was alright, but a bit redundant. The fifth, The Shelters of Stone was fairly dull and the sixth, The Land of Painted Caves, was hard to finish. So I would suggest that Outlander fans read the first four books which brings the characters to a decent leaving off place. Then ignore the last two books.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Literary Houses

The Broke and the Bookish are taking a break from their Top Ten Tuesday for the summer, but there’s no reason that I have to do the same. This week, I decided to give a shout out to some of my favorite literary houses. A great setting can be like a character, and these houses are very much a part of their respective worlds.

1. Thornfield Hall from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte– A large, grand mansion on the moors, with a great library, a cute kid, a loving master, lots of servants, and something very strange happening in the attic….

The hall-door, which was half of glass, stood open; I stepped over the threshold. It was a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. Its grey front stood out well from the background of a rookery…

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North Lees Hall is said to be Charlotte Bronte’s inspiration for Thornfield Hall

2. Manderley from Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier– I consider Rebecca and Jane Eyre to be sort of literary cousins; both feature a heroine arriving at a large house full of servants and a master with Bluebeard-ish tendencies. But Manderley is in Cornwall. Our unnamed heroine marries it’s master Maxim De Winter only to discover that Manderley is haunted by the memory of Maxim’s late wife, Rebecca. A memory that is faithfully kept alive by one of the creepiest literary housekeeper’s ever.

The peace of Manderley. The quietude and the grace. Whoever lived within its walls, whatever trouble there was and strife, however much uneasiness and pain, no matter what tears were shed, what sorrows borne, the peace of Manderley could not be broken or the loveliness destroyed. The flowers that died would bloom again another year, the same birds build their nests, the same trees blossom. That old quiet moss smell would linger in the air, and the bees would come, and crickets, the herons build their nests in the deep dark woods. The butterflies would dance their merry jug across the lawns, and spiders spin foggy webs, and small startled rabbits who had no business to come trespassing poke their faces through the crowded shrubs. There would be lilac, and honeysuckle still, and the white magnolia buds unfolding slow and tight beneath the dining-room window. No one would ever hurt Manderley. It would lie always in its hollow like an enchanted thing, guarded by the woods, safe, secure, while the sea broke and ran and came again in the little shingle bays below.

3. Wuthering Heights from Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte– The action of Wuthering Heights takes places at two houses, Wuthering Heights, and Thrushcross Grange. Thrushcross Grange is polite and civilized. Wuthering Heights embodies everything that is wild and dangerous about the moors. Most dangerous, perhaps, is Heathcliff, a character who can’t comfortably be classified as a “hero” or a “villain”.

Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s dwelling, “wuthering” being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed. One may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house, and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun.

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Top Withens; an abandoned farm thought to be the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.

4. Green Gables from Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery– Taking a break from the gothic, this pastoral house in the fictional town of Avonlea, on Prince Edward Island, is home to the plucky red headed orphan, Anne. It’s a place of learning and hard work, but also of laughter and love.

“I came to the conclusion, Marilla, that I wasn’t born for city life and that I was glad of it. It’s nice to be eating ice cream at brilliant restaurants at eleven o’clock at night once in a while; but as a regular thing I’d rather be in east gable at eleven, sound asleep, but kind of knowing even in my sleep that the stars were shining outside and the wind was blowing in the firs across the brook.”

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Green Gables as seen in the 1985 television miniseries.

5. Tara in Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell– When the civil war takes southern belle, Scarlett O’Hara’s, familiar world away, she clings to her family home and plantation, Tara, with an iron grasp. Almost everything she does is to protect Tara and to keep it in her possession. Whenever she feels like all is lost, she goes to Tara.

Spring had come early that year, with warm quick rains and sudden frothing of pink peach blossoms and dogwood dappling with white stars the dark river swamp and far-off hills. Already the plowing was nearly finished, and the bloody glory of the sunset colored the fresh-cut furrows of red Georgia clay to even redder hues. The moist hungry earth, waiting upturned for the cotton seeds, showed pinkish on the sandy tops of furrows, vermilion and scarlet and maroon where shadows lay along the sides of the trenches. The whitewashed brick plantation house seemed an island set in a wild red sea, a sea of spiraling, curving, crescent billows petrified suddenly at the moment when the pink-tipped waves were breaking into surf. For here were no long, straight furrows, such as could be seen in the yellow clay fields of the flat middle Georgia country or in the lush black earth of the coastal plantations. The rolling foothill country of north Georgia was plowed in a million curves to keep the rich earth from washing down into the river bottoms.

It was a savagely red land, blood-colored after rains, brick dust in droughts, the best cotton land in the world. It was a pleasant land of white houses, peaceful plowed fields and sluggish yellow rivers, but a land of contrasts, of brightest sun glare and densest shade. The plantation clearings and miles of cotton fields smiled up to a warm sun, placid, complacent. At their edges rose the virgin forests, dark and cool even in the hottest noons, mysterious, a little sinister, the soughing pines seeming to wait with an age-old patience, to threaten with soft sighs: “Be careful! Be careful! We had you once. We can take you back again.”

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Tara, as seen the the 1939 film

6. Misselthwaite Manor from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgsen Burnett– Yes, the garden is the main attraction for readers, but you can’t have a secret garden without a creepy old manor. Misselthwaite has over 100 rooms filled with secrets, a heartbroken master, and the hidden promise of life somewhere outdoors.

All she thought about the key was that if it was the key to the closed garden, and she could find out where the door was, she could perhaps open it and see what was inside the walls, and what had happened to the old rose-trees. […] Besides that, if she liked it she could go into it every day and shut the door behind her, and she could make up some play of her own and play it quite alone, because nobody would ever know where she was, but would think the door was still locked and the key buried in the earth. The thought of that pleased her very much.

7. Satis House in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens–  Long ago, Satis House was done up for the wedding of it’s mistress, the young Miss Havisham. Unfortunately she was left at the alter. Since then nothing has changed. The tables are still set, the rooms are still decorated. Miss Havisham has never left and can still be seen lurking around the wreckage in her wedding dress.

So unchanging was the dull old house, the yellow light in the darkened room, the faded spectre in the chair by the dressing-table glass, that I felt as if the stopping of the clocks had stopped Time in that mysterious place, and, while I and everything else outside it grew older, it stood still.

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Dickens (who lived nearby) used aspects of Restoration House in South East England, when describing Satis house.

8. Dragonwyck from Dragonwyck by Anya Seton– This lesser known novel by Anya Seton has a lot in common with Jane Eyre and Rebecca, in terms of character and plot. But Dragonwyck is a patroonship (click for more info on what that is) and that informs the mentality and motivations of one of the main characters in this book. Just how twisted can the “lord of the manor” be, and still get away with it? When his wife is awakened to the injustice of the system, she’s no longer blinded by love for her husband and the beauty of his estate.

Yes,” Nicholas replied, in a bored voice. “The name is Dutch. Dragonwyck, meaning place of the dragon. It derives from an Indian legend about a flying serpent whose eyes were fire and whose flaming breath withered the corn.” “Heavens!” With a light laugh, Miranda asked her new employer if the red men had sent forth a champion to do battle with the dragon.The patroon’s face was dark, unsmiling. “To appease him the wise men of the tribe sacrificed a pure maiden on the rocky bluff you see above you.”Miranda’s laughter died. Something in Nicholas Van Ryn’s cruel, handsome features made her imagine herself in the Indian maiden’s place.

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Dragonwyck as imagined in the 1946 film adaptation of the novel.

9.  Howards End in Howards End by EM Forester– The fate of this Hertfordshire country house represents the future of the British empire and class divides of England. The fact that it’s called Howards End should be a clue as to what the predictions are for the future.  The fate of this house is tied up in the dynamics of three families. The Schlegels are middle class, intellectual and impractical; the Wilcox’s are upper class, materialistic, and pragmatic; and the working class Basts are deprived but  hopeful.

Why did we settle that their house would be all gables and wiggles, and their garden all gamboge-coloured paths? I believe simply because we associate them with expensive hotels–Mrs. Wilcox trailing in beautiful dresses down long corridors, Mr. Wilcox bullying porters, etc. We females are that unjust.

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Preppard Cottage was used as the house in the 1992 film adaptation of Howard’s End.

10.  Villa Villekulla from Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren– This was my dream house when I was about eight years old. I think it would be most kid’s dream home. Pippi lives there with no parents, or relatives (but with a pet monkey and a horse….). The kids next door, Tommy and Annika, come over the play a lot, and the tree outside the house grows soda. What’s not to love?

“But first I must introduce you to Mr. Nilsson,” said Pippi, and the little monkey took off his cap and bowed politely.
Then they all went in through Villa Villekulla’s tumbledown garden gate, along the gravel path, bordered with old moss-covered trees–really good climbing trees they seemed to be–up to the house, and onto the porch. There stood the horse, munching oats out of a soup bowl

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This house, on the Swedish island, Gotland, was used for Villa Villakula in the 1969 film, Pippi Longstocking, and the TV series of the early 1970’s.