Top Ten Tuesday: Spring-y Books

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

March 9: Spring Cleaning Freebie (for example, books you’re planning to get rid of for whatever reason, book’s you’d like to clean off your TBR by either reading them or deciding you’re not interested, books that feel fresh and clean to you after winter is over, etc.)

For this one I decided to stay simple and go with books that feel like/ remind me of springtime. Themes of nature, rebirth, renewal, hope, and second chances abound!

  1. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim– It’s a miserable February when two English ladies see an advertisement “To Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine.” They end up spending their April with two other ladies. The only thing these four have in common really is dissatisfaction with their everyday lives. The month they spend in a medieval castle in Portafino, Italy, is transformative for all.

2. The Lake House by Kate Morton– This is actually not my favorite Kate Morton book, but it does strike me as the most spring-y. Alice lives on her family’s estate in Cornwall. Her baby brother, Theo vanishes without a trace one night after a party, and the family, torn apart, abandons the lake house. Decades later, the house is discovered by Sadie, a young detective with the London police force, who is staying in Cornwall with her grandfather. Her investigation into what happened long ago connects her with Alice, and some shocking revelations. I think the themes of healing and second chances make this one feel like springtime.

3. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett- This childhood favorite is all about rebirth, renewal, second chances, and of course, gardens! Mary is raised in India and sent to her uncle’s gloomy English manor after she’s orphaned by a cholera outbreak. As she tries to crave a new life for herself on the moors, she discovers and abandoned garden. In making the garden grow, she helps herself and others grow as well. She brings healing, and new life, to a grieving household.

4. Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth by Phillipa Gregory- Technically these two books make up the Tradescant duology, but they’re both pretty stand alone, so they can be read in either order. The first book is about John Tradescant, royal gardener in 17th century England. The second book follows his son, who immigrates to America (which was then colonies). The only thing that the father and son, and the two books, have in common is their name, and their strong connection to nature.

5. Arcadia by Lauren Groff- In upstate New York, in the 1970s, a few idealists found a commune on the grounds of a decaying mansion (Arcadia House). They vow to work together and live off the land. The books follows the utopian dream through it’s demise. This may seem almost: anti-spring! After all the living off nature idea falls apart. But the people change. They grow. They realize they have to face the wider world outside, and they emerge when they’re ready to take it on. To me that seems like a springtime theme.

6. Persuasion by Jane Austen- This is actually one of my least favorite Austen books (which still makes it better that about 90% of other books!), but it’s themes of first loves and second chances make it great for spring. It’s about a couple that falls in love and is separated by fate. Years later, they meet again. Older, wiser, and still in love. Is it too late for them? After all, they’ve both grown and changed… Of course not! Spring is the season of second chances.

7. Spring by Ali Smith-Spring is the third novel in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet. All of the novels have connections but they’re all stand alone and can be read in any order. All are about contemporary Britain, but also in a larger sense about the attitudes of the western world. This book has a focus on immigration and refugee crises. While the depiction of detention centers is sometimes hard to take, there is also a sense of optimism and hope that we can learn and change, that feels spring-y.


8. Flush: A Biography by Virginia Woolf– This imagined biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s loyal canine friend is a story of love, companionship and renewal. It’s also a story of transformation, change and growth. We see Flush go from stifled lap dog to cosmopolitan dog about town.

9. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter- This book opens on the Italian coast in 1962. A chance at romance between an innkeeper and an aspiring actress is cut off. But 50 years later it might get a second chance thanks to some Hollywood hustlers. This could have been a cynical Hollywood satire, but Walter gives the story a sweetness that is accompanied by wit.

10. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed- Cheryl Strayed is in sort of a personal, metaphorical winter at the beginning of this memoir. And much of the content takes her though actual snowpack! But she emerged from the winter, stronger, wiser, and most of all, hopeful: a metaphorical spring ends the winter.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That I Got Lost In

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

November 24: Thanksgiving/I’m Thankful for… Freebie

For this list I decided to look at the kind of books I’m thankful for. This year I definitely sought out the experience of losing myself in a book for a while. I was thankful when books allowed me to do that. So I decided to list books that I was able to fall into, and forget about reality for a while. They’re not all books that I read this year (nor are they all great literature, by any stretch of the imagination!) but they’re books that gave me the sort of experience that I was grateful for this year. Hope that makes sense!

  1. Harry Potter series- In spite of my ongoing issues with the author, I will always have love in my heart for these books. They created a world that I cared about, and let me live in it with the characters for seven books. When it was done, I felt like I’d grown up with these characters. Oh, and I say that I can put an entire series in one spot on this list! My list my rules!

2. Outlander series- This isn’t perfect either (I think issue with a few themes) but it did create another world that I could live in. Reality disappears when I read about the reality of these characters even if they’re doing something relatively mundane (with the right characters, a chapter on laundry can be fun!) but knowing these guys, excitement and adventure is usually just around the corner.

3. The Dollinganger series by VC Andrews- Full disclosure: I got lost in this series when I was about 12. What was shocking and page turningly compelling then, probably wouldn’t hold up now. But I do remember spending an entire bus ride on a school field trip engrossed in Petals On The Wind (I had just finished Flowers in the Attic and I needed to know what came next!)

4. The Gemma Doyle trilogy by Libba Bray- I came for the Victorian era feminism. I stayed- glued to the page- the find out about the worlds in which Gemma found herself. I was invested in these characters, intrigued by the mythological systems that Gemma encounters, and eager to see what a young Victorian girl with little agency in her own life, could do with supernatural realms of power. I read the first two back to back, but The Sweet Far Thing hadn’t come out and that point, so I had to wait to finish.

5. Intensity by Dean Koontz- I can’t remember what first made me pick this book up. I think someone might have recommended it. But I remember starting it on a Friday and not putting it down for the rest of the weekend.

6. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton- I picked this up with relatively low expectations (the only Morton book that I had read prior was The House at Riverton, which I thought was just OK) but I was pleasantly surprised. The story spoke to a lot of my literary tastes (multiple timelines, fairy tales, historical fiction) and just cast a spell on me. I’m glad I gave Morton another chance because now she’s an automatic read for me.

7. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield- I started getting into this late one night, and couldn’t put it down until the next morning. It was a literal all nighter. I distinctly remember coming upon a plot revelation at around 1am and wishing I could talk to someone about it!

8. Queen of Camelot by Nancy McKenzie- In this case, I don’t know why I found this book so compelling. It retold a story that I find interesting but not usually riveting. But this book was glued to my face for some reason. I read it at work during my lunch break. I also enjoyed the second and third in the author’s Camelot trilogy, Grail Prince and Prince of Dreams, but not quite as much as this one.

9. The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons- This is another one that I suspect would not hold up well to a reread, but teenage Fran was unable to put the book down (or stop crying when it was over!) I ordered the rest of the trilogy and read it ASAP.

10. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel- I read this my freshman year of high school and was briefly interested in studying human evolution because of it. The subject still interests me, but not as something to study. Unfortunately the quality of the books in the series diminished with each one (second was good, third was OK, fourth and fifth were not good. I didn’t even bother with #6)

11. The Pact by Jodi Picoult- For some reason everyone in my high school was reading this book, so I picked it up. In retrospect, I think some of the themes wouldn’t hold up well, but at the time, I recall it being a page turner. Though I see it’s subtitled “A Love Story” and I don’t recall it being that at all…

I think sometimes the experience of not being able to put a book down depends on the right book finding you at the right time. In these cases, these books found me in the right mood/frame of mind to read them compulsively. Some hold up better than others, and some I’d rather remember well, than revisit. Regardless, I am very thankful when I’m able to disappear into a book world, like I did with these.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Tropes

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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August 20: Favorite Tropes (a trope is a commonly used theme or plot device) (submitted by Andrea @ Books for Muse)

1. Mysterious school

2. Slow burn romance

3. Small towns

4. Missing/Absent parents

5. Family secrets

6. Gothic

7. Neo-Victorian

8. Time Travel / Time Slips

9. Dual Timelines

10. Fairy Tale retellings

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorites of the Last Ten Years

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

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May 28: Favorite Books Released In the Last Ten Years (one book for each year) (submitted by Anne @ Head Full of Books)

513xypka1bl-_ac_us218_2019 (so far…) Once Upon A River By Diane Setterfield– Set in a pub in a village along the Thames in the late 19th century, this novel opens on a winter’s night. A man, badly hurt and soaking wet, staggers in holding a little girl who appears dead. A local nurse saves the man and realizes that the girl isn’t dead (anymore?), but the man has no memory of how he came across the girl or who she is. When she regains consciousness the child is unable to talk. A local family believe that she’s the baby that was kidnapped from them two years ago. Another family thinks that she’s the lost daughter of their prodigal son. A woman well into middle age believes that the 4 year old child is her sister. The story winds its way from one character to the next, and each character’s back story becomes like a tributary.

617j4awgzul-_ac_us218_2018 Idaho by Emily Ruskovich- Ann and Wade are a married couple living in Idaho. As Wade’s memory fades with early onset dementia, Ann begins to piece together the fate of Wade’s first wife, Jenny (now in prison) and their two daughters  (one dead and one missing). The novel moves from one characters point of view to another in a nonlinear fashion. There’s a sense of strangeness to the events and characters of this novel, but there’s a familiarity as well. We’re never actually told what happened to Wade’s family, but we’re given enough pieces to put it together. If you like things laid out clearly, you probably won’t like this. But if you like a bit of ambiguity and gorgeous prose, you might like this.

51vp6vchi4l-_ac_us218_2017 A Little Life by Hana Yanagihara- Four young men meet in college and become friends. When they graduate, they move to NYC and begin their lives. Willem, an aspiring actor, is kind to his core. JB is a bright, witty, and occasionally cruel painter, Malcolm becomes an architect at a prominent firm. But the nexus of the group is Jude, withdrawn, intelligent, with a dark, unspeakable childhood of trauma behind him. Over the years, their friendships deepen and change as they face different challenges. But Jude himself is their greatest challenge. We do eventually learn what happened to Jude, and it’s ugly. Very ugly. Like hard to read about. But there’s something beautiful about Jude’s struggle to overcome it, and his friend’s struggle to help him.  Much like Jude’s like the experience of reading this is tragic, traumatic, and sometimes brutal. But it’s also beautiful.

51muf7bj-ll-_ac_us218_2016 The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss– When some unexpected excitement comes to an inn one evening, the innkeeper faces it like a veteran. But then he goes back to his regular life, and tells his story. Kvothe’s childhood was spent in a troupe of travelling players. When he encounters an Arcanist (sort of a scientist/wizard) he’s tutored and develops into a powerful Arcanist in his own right. When the world of his childhood is overturned, Kvothe just barely escapes and becomes a beggar before fate brings him to University. He makes several friends and several enemies before discovering the reason that his was killed. This is a pretty epic novel that covers the first 1/3 of Kvothe’s life and is the first in a planned trilogy.  I haven’t read the second book yet, because I’m waiting for a release date for the third book before I invest more time in the series.

41oplfqimil-_ac_us218_2015 The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters– Dr. Faraday is called to Hundred’s Hall, the home of the Ayers family. As a child his mother worked there as a maid. But now, its owners (a mother and her two adult children) are struggling to keep up with modern society. He treats the young maid, but he strikes up a friendship with Caroline Ayers, the daughter of the house. He also begins to treat her brother, Roderick, who is still recovering from wounds he sustained during WWII. He comes to understand the family’s dire financial straits. The stress of the attempts to reconcile these straits coincide with some disastrous events that may or may not be supernatural in origin and lead to tragedy. But  what’s great about this novel is that it remains ambiguous, hovering on the edges psychological and supernatural without fulling diving into either category.

51jx4jtbmpl2014 Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth– Forsyth’s Rapunzel retelling is a wonderful braid of narratives that overlap. Charlotte Rose de la Force is banished from Versailles after a number of scandalous love affairs. She goes to a convent where a nun tells her a story of a young girl who was  sold by her parents for a handful of lettuce after her father is caught stealing from the courtesan Selena Leonelli. Margherita is the price he pays for his crimes. She grows up locked away in a tower. The combined stories of these three women tell the traditional Rapunzel story as well as the story of the women who wrote it. The novel is both a historical fiction account of real women and a fairy tale retelling.

41-kxlbhnl-_ac_us218_2013 The Other by Thomas Tryon– Holland and Niles Perry are thirteen year old identical twins. They live in a small New England town with their parents, and when their father dies in a tragic accident, the extended family gather, while their mother stays in her bedroom, heartbroken. This allows the boys to roam free. Holland, always a bit of a prankster, grows more sinister with his games. This book offers several twists on the ghost story genre as well as the evil twin/doppelganger trope. One seems fairly obvious from the beginning but that twist plays out early on, and there several other surprises in store.

51eksizfwl-_ac_us218_2012 Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson– Major Pettigrew is a rather cranky widower living in Edgecombe St. Mary, an English country village where nothing much changes (which is how he likes it!). When he strikes up a friendship with Jasmine Ali, a widowed Pakistani shopkeeper, they bond unexpectedly over their love of books and the loss of their respective spouses. As their friendship develops into something more, they and the village must decide what elements of culture and tradition are worth preserving and what should change with the times. It’s a gentle story about the ways people are different and the things that they have in common.

41oyve54sgl-_ac_us218_2011 Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier– Catrin, a young scribe, takes refuge from a mysterious danger in Whistling Tor, a crumbling fortress that belongs to Anluan, chieftain living under a curse. Retained to sort through some family documents, Catrin and Anluan form a surprising connection. But if they are to have a future together, Catrin must unravel the mysteries of Anluan’s family curse. This Beauty and the Beast variation incorporates elements of mystery, fantasy and romance.

81l67wbztml._ac_ul436_2010 The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton– In 1913, a little girl is discovered alone on a ship headed to Australia. She has nothing but a small suitcase with a book: a single volume of fairy tales. She is taken in and raised by a couple, but when they tell her the truth on her twenty first birthday, Nell goes to England to try to trace her real identity. The quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor, a Cornwall mansion that is home to the doomed Mountrachet family. But it’s not until many years later when Nell’s granddaughter Cassandra discovers the garden of the book’s title that the mystery can finally be solved. This book combines several elements I love: dual timelines, Gothic drama, and fairy tales.

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall 2018 TBR

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For ThatArtsyReaderGirl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

September 18: Books On My Fall 2018 TBR

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1. Unsheltered by Barbara Kingslover (October 16) I loved Kingslover’s The Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer. This new novel features dual timelines (a favorite device for me) and it sounds promising.

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2. The Labyrinth of Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (September 18) I loved Zafon’s introduction to the Cemetary of Forgotten books in The Shadow of the Wind. The follow-ups (The Angel’s Game and The Prisoner of Heaven) weren’t as good but were still compelling. This is supposed to be the conclusion that ties together the themes of the series. I hope that it lives up to the first book, but I may need to reread them all to refresh my memory!

91mr5h6-xil-_ac_us218_3. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (September 18) The fourth novel in Galbraith’s (AKA JK Rowling) Comoran Strike series is really highly anticipated (by me at least!) because the last one left off on a sort of cliffhanger regarding the personal relationships of the two primary characters.

51e4ptxpx8l-_ac_us218_4. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton (October 9) Kate Morton is a favorite of mine based on several of her past novels (The Forgotten Garden, The Distant HoursThe Secret Keeper). I’ve heard good things about this one, so I’m looking forward to it.

51i6ln7tmul-_ac_us218_5. The Library Book by Susan Orlean (October 16) I loved The Orchid Thief and I love libraries. This book delves into the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library (one of the most devastating library fires in American history) and in the process explore the idea of libraries and the crucial role that they play in society.

514bydpfbhl-_ac_us218_6. When We Caught Fire by Anne Godberson (October 2) Anne Godberson’s Luxe series was a major guilty pleasure for me. I also enjoyed her Bright Young Things trilogy. I’m looking forward to this standalone novel set around Chicago’s Great Fire of 1871.

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7. The Winters by Lisa Gabriele (October 16) I was a bit skeptical about this retelling of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca (one of my favorite novels) but revisiting a classic with a fresh eye can sometimes pay off. You could actually argue that DuMaurier did that same thing with Jane Eyre in Rebecca! So really I owe it to this book to give it a chance.

51ecxjihxpl-_ac_us218_8. Daughters of the Lake by Wendy Webb (November 1) I’ve never read anything by Webb before, but I’ve seen her work recommended for fans of Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley, and Simone St. James. In other words, me! Reviewers also call her “Queen of the Northern Gothic,” which also sounds promising.

51pku74twl-_ac_us218_9. The Witch of Willow Hall by Hester Fox (October 2) This one seems like a perfect October read featuring the Salem Witch Trials, ghosts, and a Gothic setting.

513xypka1bl-_ac_us218_10. Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield (December 4) I loved Diane Setterfield’s first novel, The Thirteenth Tale. I was less fond of her follow up Bellman and Black, but the early reviews for this one are positive so I’m hopeful!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Sensory Memories

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

July 24: Books with Sensory Reading Memories (These are the books that are linked to very specific memories for you: where you were, what time of year it was, who you were with, what you were eating, what you were feeling, what you were seeing, etc. Ideas include books you read while on vacation, books that you read while you were eating, books you read at work/at a family or social event/on the train or plane, books you’ve buddy read with loved ones, books you read during an emotional time in your life, books you read by the fire, etc.) (Submitted by Jessica @ A Cocoon of Books)

51hkibf29rl-_ac_us218_1. A Place Called Freedom by Ken Follett– I read this book in high school when I was at home, sick. Even though I enjoyed the book, when I think about it, I remember a sore throat and an earache!

 

 

 

51c-asvgcil-_ac_us218_2. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield– I read this during a snowstorm. It was a great read when you’re stuck indoors. Now I always associate the book with winter.

 

 

 

61jbrrzbrel-_ac_us218_3. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss- Similar to the one above, this is a book I’ll probably always associate with summer because I read it during a heat wave when I was more or less stuck indoors because going into heat and humidity was too much.

 

 

41rpsowgql-_ac_us218_4. The Dive From Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer– I read this one when I was in the hospital due to cellulitis from an infected spider bite. I was in the hospital for 2-3 days because the initial antibiotic that they gave for the infection didn’t work, so they had to use another one. Whenever I think about this book, I think about wanting to rip an IV tube from my arm and scream in pain and frustration. But the book itself was OK if memory serves me correctly.

51vrprtluql-_ac_us218_5. Road to Paradise by Paullina Simons– It makes sense that I’d read a book about a road trip while traveling. But in this case, I was traveling by plane, not car. It was a long trip and I was squished between two rather large people. I didn’t particularly enjoy the book either.

 

 

41nym4cur3l-_ac_us218_6. Five Children and It by E. Nesbit– This is another book that I’ll always associate with travel and being cramped in uncomfortable spaces. I read this on a train when I was about ten. My family was going to Disneyworld, but there was a freight train on the track in front of us that derailed and we were stuck on the tracks somewhere in Georgia for an entire day waiting for them to clear the tracks so we could go. While I was waiting I read this.

 

41ryq34ta9l-_ac_us218_7. A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle- Oddly this is a book that I associate with the sensation of dried, callused skin on the bottom of a foot. I think the reason for that is simply that at one point in the book, a character is described as having feet like that, and I really hate that feeling!

 

 

518ejevmohl-_ac_us218_8. The Woman in the Window by AJ Flinn– This is a recent one that I read when I had insomnia one night. I think the insomnia was twofold: partially because I’d had a late nap that day, and partially because I wanted to know whodunnit! Nonetheless, I do associate it with the somewhat frustrating sensation of wanting to sleep and not being able to.

 

51ns2zveahl-_ac_us218_9. These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer– This is another book I read while traveling. I remember I had to sleep in a really hard bed, and I was reading this because I wasn’t able to sleep because I couldn’t get comfortable. All I remember about the actual content of the book is that the heroine is disguised as a boy for the first portion.

 

 

51pv4ly0mtl-_ac_us218_10. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton– I remember that I started reading this after a horrible week at work. I don’t remember what happened that week that made it so bad, but by Friday afternoon I was screaming for something to take me away. Fortunately, I started reading this book, because it did just that!

 

 

2018 Mid Year Book Freak Out

I’ve seen this tag on a lot of blogs, so I thought “why not mine?”

BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2018

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Idaho by Emily Ruskovitch– While I enjoyed the plot, this wasn’t a book to read to find out whodunnit or what happens next. If you read it for clear, unambiguous answers, you’ll be frustrated. But there are passages in this book that are so exquisitely written that I almost had to stop reading for a moment. There is ugliness in the plot. People do ugly things. But those are written about so beautifully that you almost can’t help but find something lovely in them, even when you don’t want to. The book consists of this torturous pairing of sadness and hope, and love and pain.

BEST SEQUEL YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2018

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Actually, I don’t think many of the books I’ve read in 2018 qualify as sequels. Probably one of the only ones is Messinger of Truth by Jacqueline Winspear, which is the 4th in the Maisie Dobbs series. While somewhat grim (set in the aftermath of WWI and the looming shadow of WWII) the characters developed in interesting ways. One of the characters’ circumstances took a turn that I didn’t quite expect. I’m eager to see what becomes of him in the next book.

NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ YET BUT WANT TO

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The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock is one that I’m very anxious to read because I’ve heard good reviews from several fairly reliable sources. The combination of fantasy and historical fiction is right up my alley.

MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASES FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR

There are a lot. At the moment, the most notable are these.

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Bellwether and The Clockmaker’s Daughter are the long-anticipated new books by two of my favorite authors.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

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After Anatevka by Alexandra Silber

I think that I wanted to like this more than I did. I’m a fan of Alexandra Silber as an actress and a blogger and I wanted to love her debut novel. She played Hodel in the 2007 London production of The Fiddler on the Roof and Tzeitel in the 2016 Broadway revival of the same show. In this book, she imagined Hodel’s life after she leaves the stage (Hodel is last seen getting on a train to Siberia, where she will join her lover, Perchik in a labor camp). Tzeitel is also given a voice in letters she writes to her sister. I thought that this was a great extension of the creative process, from an actress who clearly has a strong connection to the material and the characters. Which makes my biggest problem with it surprising. An actor is supposed to show who a character is and what s/he feels by illustrating it with their body and voice. But in this book, we’re told things about the characters rather than shown. We know for example that Hodel loves Perchik because we’re told that this is the case, but not because we see it. So ultimately I liked this less than I wanted to.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo

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I read this because I’d seen it recommended many times, rather than any interest I may have had in a Nigerian couple struggling to conceive. But this story of the traditional culture coming into conflict with modern life drew me in right away. I found that I cared about the characters and the things that happened to them. The plot twisted in directions that I didn’t expect, but it never felt contrived.

FAVORITE NEW AUTHOR

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I look forward to reading more from Susanna Fogel, author of Nuclear Family. According to her bio she’s written a couple of screenplays and some stuff for The New Yorker. But her first novel has a really nice blend of the humor, love, and exasperation that makes family what it is. Granted, the Fellers are their own unique kind of dysfunctional, but the blend of wanting to simultaneously hug some of these people and never see or speak to them again is something that many people will understand. The chapters consist of letters that the family writes to the main character, Julie. They have names like One of the Eggs You Just Froze Has a Question, Your Mom’s Rabbi Has a Great Idea for a TV Show!, Your Uncle Figured a Mass E-mail Was the Best Way to Discuss His Sexuality, The Gerbil You Drowned in 1990 Would Like a Word With You, and Your Intrauterine Device Has Some Thoughts on Your Love Life.  Yes, some of it’s weird, but Fogel pulls it off.

FAVORITE NEW CRUSH

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I haven’t really encountered any new literary crushes. I’ve recently discovered Simone St. James though, and while her books aren’t great literature, they’re good fun. Her romantic heroes tend to be compelling enough for me to fall for, for the duration of the book, even though they’re not likely to become long-term book boyfriends.

FAVORITE NEW CHARACTERS

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Probably Sir Anthony Peters, Beth Cunningham, and Alex MacGregor from The Mask of Duplicity. All three are intriguing. I’m eager to get to know them all a bit better in the next book in the series.

BOOKS THAT MADE YOU CRY

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Commonwealth by Ann Patchett probably came the closest. It takes place over five decades but the events in two time periods really got to me. One is when several children in a blended family are playing one summer day. The other is when one of those children is caring for her sick father, nearly a half a century later. When she and her father are directly confronted with the events of that summer day, I got a bit of a lump in my throat. I won’t say more, because I can’t without giving away spoilers.

A BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAPPY

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Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day by Winifred Watson

The movie has always been one of my “happy movies”- something I put on to make a bad day a little bit better. I found the novel on which it was based to be even frothier and lighter than the film. In some ways, I actually wished for some of the additional weight that the film added, but the book definitely left me in a good mood.

MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOKS YOU’VE BOUGHT SO FAR THIS YEAR

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Cheerful Weather For the Wedding by Julia Strachey. Like most Persephone Classics, it’s a small work of art, as an object. Its cover features Girl Reading, a painting by Harold Knight. I like the colors in the painting and the general state of repose of the figure. The endpaper features a printed dress fabric design by Madeleine Lawrence. It’s also beautifully written.

WHAT BOOKS DO YOU NEED TO READ BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR?

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The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien– I’ve never actually made it through the Lord of the Rings books. Finally, the prospect of being a fantasy writer who had never read Tolkien was too much. I’m making my way through this slowly, in between reading other things. I will finish it before the end of the year though!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Want To Get Early

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

May 1: Books I’d Slay a Lion to Get Early (Submitted by Emma)

I’m assuming that the topic for today is a hyperbole because however anxious I am to read these, I’m not in the habit of lion slaying. Most of these are from authors/series that I already know and trust. Hey, if I’m going to take on a lion to get one of these books, they’d better be worth it!

614yl-rg-3l-_ac_us218_1. Bellewether by Susanna Kearsley- I really just want this because I’m excited to have a new Kearsley book to read. A Desperate Fortune came out in 2015, so it’s been a few years! I like this cover but I’m not sure, I may prefer the Canadian cover simply because it’s more consistent with most of my other Kearsley books.

Release Date:  August 7, 2018

 

41ysobpyonl-_ac_us218_2. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton– Morton is another author whose work I have followed for years. Her last novel, The Lake House, came out in 2015, so I’m more than ready for a new one. This isn’t the cover, the actual cover art hasn’t been revealed yet.

Release Date: October 9, 2018

 

 

sequel-where-the-light3. Where the Light Enters by Sara Donati– I enjoyed Donati’s Wilderness series and I liked The Gilded Hour even better. While several plot lines were resolved in The Gilded Hour, there were some major ones that weren’t. I want to see how those play out. The cover shown here isn’t the book’s actual cover. Rather it’s a temporary cover stolen from the author’s website.

Release Date: Unknown

lethal_white_by_robert_galbraith_us4. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)- Again it’s been three years since Career of Evil, the last Cormoran Strike novel. That one left us with a cliffhanger regarding the relationship between two major characters. I’ve been waiting to see how that plays out! The cover shown here was a fanmade cover based on the artwork of previous books in the series. It is not the real cover.

Release Date: Unknown

51lpw3sd0sl-_ac_us218_5. Bare Knuckle by Cindy Brandner– I really enjoyed Brandner’s Exit Unicorns. I’m reading the rest of the series slowly so that I’m not left too long with nothing to read. But since Bare Knuckle is a prequel to Exit Unicorns, I think I’ll be OK  reading it, even though I haven’t finished the whole series.

Release Date:  May 1, 2018

 

51qjgmeqg6l-_ac_us218_6. Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl– I loved Pessl’s Night Film, and this boarding school set murder mystery seems right up my alley!

Release Date:  June 5, 2018

 

 

515y9hgrwzl-_ac_us218_7. The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye– I discovered Lyndsay Faye via Jane Steele, and her next book is a murder mystery set in the 1920s and it sounds really good!

 

 

 

51o1uxkkkl-_ac_us218_8. A Question of Trust by Penny Vincenzi– Penny Vincenzi is always a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. Her books are long, glamorous and just soapy enough to float. This is her latest.

Release Date: July 10, 2018

 

 

514bydpfbhl-_ac_us218_9. When We Caught Fire by Anne Godberson– Anne Godberson’s Luxe series is another major guilty, soapy, pleasure. I’m looking forward to her upcoming historical novel, about the love triangle that supposedly caused the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

Release Date: Oct 2, 2018

 

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From Gabaldon’s site: The images above on this page show an ancient Egyptian amulet with a bee hieroglyph. Ancient Egyptians were the first documented beekeepers in human history, dating to 5,000 years ago.

10. Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone by Diana Gabaldon– According to Gabaldon, the Outlander series will be 10 books in all making this the second to last.  I’m looking forward to seeing the Frasers and MacKenzies reunited on the Ridge once again, hoping that the Revolutionary War finally ends and that the whole crew survives it. According to buzz (no pun intended), it won’t hit bookshelves until 2019-ish. The title refers to the Celtic custom of talking to one’s bees that made it to the Appalachians. It was believed that a beekeeper should tell the bees if someone is born, dies, comes, or leaves, because if they’re not informed they’ll fly away. Of course, that information makes me wonder if the title is literal or metaphorical, and who the speaker is.

Release Date: Unknown

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Dual Timeline Novels

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

February 20: Books I’ve Decided I’m No Longer Interested In Reading

This topic didn’t really speak to me. My thinking is that if I’m no longer interested in reading them, then why waste time writing about them? So instead I decided to look at one of my favorite fictional genres. I love dual timeline narratives in which the past and the present interact in some way. It could be a literal interaction; such as someone from the present having contact with someone in the past, or it could be more thematic- the present day character learns about some past event that illuminates something that s/he is experiencing. My “rules” for this list are that there isn’t allowed to be any literal time travel. Each character needs to remain physically in his/her own period. Visions of the other period are allowed though. Also, only two primary timelines are allowed. We can learn bits and pieces of what happens in between, but the main narrative focuses on two timelines. Here are ten favorites:

51pv4ly0mtl-_ac_us218_1. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton– I was initially reluctant to read this after having been rather disappointed in Morton’s debut The House at Riverton. But I’m so glad that I gave her another chance because now she’s one of my favorite authors! This story starts off with a little girl, turning up abandoned on a ship from England to Australia in 1913. The only clue as to her identity is a book of fairy tales in her suitcase. Years later, her granddaughter, Cassandra, inherits a cottage in Cornwall, and journeys to England to discover the truth about her grandmother’s origins. She discovers that the key to the puzzle exists before her grandmother’s birth, with a Victorian country house full of family secrets. Friendship,  rivalry, betrayal, romance, and murder all play out in stories within stories. But even though the narrative is intricate (to say the least) it’s not hard to follow. Each chapter heading tells us exactly when and where the bit we’re reading takes place.

51iaiuahol-_ac_us218_2. Mariana by Susanna Kearsley– Susanna Kearsley has written many wonderful novels in this genre. For me, this one is a standout but anything she’s written is a reliable bet. Julia Beckett moves into an old farmhouse, one that she’d wanted to own since childhood. But when she moves in, she begins dreaming of Mariana, a British woman who lived in the house in the 17th century. Mariana loved her neighbor, Richard, a Loyalist, whose politics put him at odds with her uncle. Though their romance ended in tragedy, Mariana and Richard loved each other too much to stay separated. Their love will come full circle in the present day, and Julia will have an important role to play in the resolution.

51c-asvgcil-_ac_us218_3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diana Setterfield– Reclusive author, Vida Winter, has never told anyone the truth about her life story. When she’s old and ill, she hires Margaret Lea to write her biography. Margaret listens in fascination and disbelief as Vida tells her story of gothic weirdness. It’s complete with twins, a ghost, a governess, a fire, and a secret that’s never been shared. Margaret has her own issues with trust and intimacy, and her own past. Through listening to and telling Vida’s tale, she may find some resolution in her own life.

5160vyclkel-_ac_us218_4. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel– During a performance of King Lear, Arthur Leander, famous actor, has a heart attack onstage and dies despite the best efforts of an EMT in the audience. The EMT, Jeevan, later learns that on this same night the terrible flu began to spread. There is no cure, hospitals are flooded, and people begin to panic. Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves in his apartment as the world around them falls apart.  Fifteen years later, Kirsten, who as a small child appeared in that fateful production of King Lear, is an actress with the Travelling Symphony. This is a performing arts troupe that travels from one settlement of the ruined world to another. They perform Shakespeare and play music for the small communities of survivors because “survival is insufficient”- people need reminders of what it means to be human. When they arrive at St. Deborah by the Water and encounter a cult and a violent prophet who doesn’t let anyone leave. The book covers twenty years during which the twists of fate that link these disparate characters are revealed.

51lo8bgzurl-_ac_us218_5. The Plague Tales by Ann Benson– In 1348, a Spanish doctor  Alejandro Canches is tasked with keeping the court of Edward III alive during the plague. Nearly 700 years later, in a futuristic 2005 (the book was written in 1995 so 2005 was the future then!) Janie Crowe, a physician comes across a soil sample that contains a microbe that may unleash the bubonic plague on a post-Outbreak world that has already been decimated by disease. As the book progresses, these two separate stories of doctors fighting disease begin to intertwine in interesting ways. This book can be read as a standalone, or as the beginning of a trilogy. It’s followed by The Burning Road and The Physician’s Tale.

51iqjeozjvl-_ac_us218_6. A Cottage by the Sea by Ciji Ware– Blythe Barton was one married to a Hollywood power player. Then she walked in on him in bed with her sister. One messy divorce later, Blythe takes refuge in Cornwall, where she’s rented a cottage for the summer. She meets Lucas, the owner of the cottage that she’s renting. Jack is a widower, the father of a young son, who is trying to keep his estate going. Blythe wants to help. But she soon begins to have dreams and visions of Lucas’s ancestors. In the 18th century, the estate belonged to a woman, also named Blythe Barton. She was married, against her will, to a man named Christopher, though she loved his brother, Ennis. All three have tragic fates, but observing these historical events gives Blythe the perspective she needs to move on with her own life.

41xgjp2alkl-_ac_us218_7. The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve– In 1873, two women living on the Isles of Shoals, off the coast of New Hampshire, were found murdered. A third woman survived by hiding in a sea cave. In the present day, photojournalist Jean goes to the island with her husband, Thomas and their daughter Billie. The plan is for Jean to shoot a photo essay for a magazine about the murders. They take a boat with Thomas’ brother Rich and his girlfriend, Adelaine. As Jean is drawn into the murders that happened so long ago, Thomas and Adelaide are drawn to each other. All of the characters, in both timelines, are heading toward disaster. The book is based on real murders that happened on the island Smuttynose, though the contemporary story is fictional. Actually, the historical story is fictional too since the crimes in the book happen in a way very different from the story that came out in court at the alleged killer’s trial. The book was given an ok film adaptation in 2004. It’s worth a look if you like the story, but it comes as no surprise that the book is better.

51h-9e-csql-_ac_us218_8. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood– Like The Weight of Water, this is based on a real-life murder. In 1843, Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery were murdered in Upper Canada. Grace Marks, a maid in the household, and James McDermott, a stableman/handyman, were convicted of the murder. McDermott was hanged and Grace Marks was sentenced to life in prison. That much is historical fact. Atwood’s novel begins after Grace has been incarcerated for some time. A committee that believes in her innocence hopes to have her pardoned and released. Since Grace cannot remember the crimes, they hire Dr. Simon Jordan, a psychologist to evaluate her and determine her sanity. Dr. Jordan meets with Grace and listens as she tells him the story of her life, leading up to the day of the murders. We follow Grace’s story and at times we wonder about the truth of what Grace tells Dr. Jordan. She seems to make an effort to keep his interest. We’re left with a sense of ambiguity. How much of what Grace tells is the truth? If what she tells isn’t the truth, does that mean she’s lying? This was recently made into a netflix miniseries that was also pretty good.

61hyvemt7ol-_ac_us218_9. Possession by AS Byatt– In the 19th century, poet Randolph Henry Ash, known for being a devoted husband, had an affair with his fellow poet Christabel LaMotte. At the end of the 20th century, scholar Roland Mitchell discovers evidence of the secret romance and begins to investigate. His quest leads him to LaMotte scholar, Dr. Maud Baily. The two become obsessed with finding out the truth about what happened between Ash and LaMotte, and their own romantic lives begin to become entwined with those of the poets. Both stories are told in parallel and come to echo one another in interesting ways. The book had a film adaptation that wasn’t bad on its own but made some fairly significant changes from the novel.

51ixaf4tmsl-_ac_us218_10. The Eight by Katherine Neville–  In 1790, Mireille, a novice nun at Montglane Abbey is tasked with helping her cousin, Valentine, disperse the pieces of a chess set in order to keep them from falling into the wrong hands. The set was a gift from the Moors to Emperor Charlemagne, and now it’s sought by power-hungry men and women including Napoleon, Robespierre, and Catherine the Great. In 1972 computer expert Cat Velis is sent to Algeria on a special assignment. Before she leaves, she is asked by an antique dealer to find the Montglaine Service, the same chess set that Mireille had tried to protect. It’s rumored to be in Algeria. As Cat tracks down the chess set and learns its history, she discovers the power that it contains.  The author wrote a sequel in 2008 called The Fire but I haven’t read it yet.

51timps1ytl-_ac_us218_11. The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor- Yes I know it’s supposed to be ten but I had trouble deciding between a couple, and I ended up just including an extra book. This is also based on a real incident. In 1917, England was still in the grips of the most devastating war that it had ever seen. Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, two cousins in Yorkshire, announced that they’ve photographed fairies in their garden. They release the photographs and become a national sensation. A country torn apart by war seems to have found the magic it desperately needs. Eventually, though, Frances and Elsie feel that they must tell the truth about the pictures. In 2017, Olivia Kavanagh inherits her grandfather’s bookshop and discovers an old manuscript. She becomes immersed in the story it tells, that ties past to present. But when she discovers a photo, she learns that reality and fantasy may be intertwined as well.

 

 

#PersephoneReadathon Days 4&5

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(Day 4) Author Shout-out: Shine a spotlight on a neglected woman writer you wish more people knew about

Wow, this is tough because there are SO many amazing female writers out there!

  • I love Kate Morton’s work. Usually, she writes dual timeline novels set in England. My favorite is probably The Forgotten Garden, though The Distant Hours is a close second. I’d recommend her work to fans of Susanna Kearsley.
  • Kate Forsyth started off writing a popular fantasy series The Witches of Eilenan, but I’m a fan of her more historical novels. The plots are based on fairy tales, but Forsyth weaves them into real history. Bitter Greens is a triple timeline novel based on Rapunzel. It’s probably the most “fantasy” of the newer books. The Wild Girl is based on Dorchen Wild, the wife of Wilhelm Grimm. The Beast’s Garden is a WWII set love story based on “The Singing Springing Lark” which is the Grimm’s version of Beauty and the Beast.
  • Sarah Addison Allen writes magical realism. Her debut Garden Spells is a bit like Practical Magic and I’d recommend it to fans of Alice Hoffman. I also enjoyed most of her other work. I also really liked The Sugar Queen and The Girl Who Chased the Moon.
  • Finally, Eva Ibbotson wrote so many fantasy novels for an audience of teens and middle-grade readers. Fans of Harry Potter need to check out The Secret of Platform 13 right now. She also wrote some lovely romances and short stories intended for adults. I’m fond of most of her work for older readers (which has since been reprinted, targeting the YA market) but my favorites are probably The Secret Countess, A Company of Swans, and The Morning Gift.

(Day 5) Read This: Give a book recommendation/readalike based on a Persephone title

Since I’m currently immersed in The Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett, I’ll go with that one. I can easily see how it influenced Burnett’s most famous novel, The Secret Garden. Like The Shuttle, The Secret Garden emphasizes that the restoration of a place’s natural beauty can restore a broken spirit as well. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte is another novel that comes to mind. Like The Shuttle it looks at an abusive marriage in a time and place where feminism wasn’t even a thought, and divorce was taboo. Though Helen (the protagonist of Tenant) is very different from Rosalie in The Shuttle and handles her situation in a very different manner. Finally, The American Heiress also deals with the turn of the 20th-century trend for wealthy American girls to marry impoverished British nobility.