Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set in Hotels

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This was this week’s prompt:

June 29: Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2021

But rather than make yet another TBR, I got to thinking: since people are starting to travel again, what are some good books set in hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and other travel lodgings? And if you still can’t travel IRL, you can do it vicariously with these books. Hotels are great settings because you get all kinds of people, each with their own stories, all in the same place at the same time. I tried to keep it pretty varied.

The Shining by Stephen King– This is a hotel you probably won’t want to stay in! When Jack Torrence gets a job as the caretaker at Overlook Hotel, the recovering alcoholic sees it as a fresh start for himself, his wife, and their son. But the idyllic location is remote and cut off from the rest of the world, particularly during the harsh winter. And the Overlook is home to something dark, something that threatens both Jack’s mind and his family’s safety.

A Room with A View by EM Forester– While traveling in Italy with her aunt, Charlotte, Lucy Honeychurch meets George and his father, who kindly offer to switch hotel rooms with Lucy and Charlotte, as their room has a view. Charlotte refuses this offer out of snobbery. But Lucy finds herself drawn to George. She’s headstrong and bright, and pushing against the ties of her upper class British upbringing, but she can’t quite bring herself to sever those ties. When the characters return to England, where Lucy and George’s paths soon cross again.

The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving- In the mid 1950’s, Win decides to buy and convert and old school into a hotel. His family comes along for the ride and the challenges of helping to run, and live in a hotel bring out different aspects of his children’s personalities. When an old friend offers Win the chance to operate an Austrian hotel, he sells his first hotel, and moves the family to Austria. Several years later the family moves to NYC. Along their travels they encounter a number of eccentric characters and situations, but they’re probably the most eccentric of all in their own unique ways.

Jamaica Inn by Daphne DuMaurier– After losing her parents, Mary Yellan moves to north Cornwall, to live with her aunt Prudence and Prudence’s husband, Joss Merlyn, who operates the titular inn. Soon Mary comes to suspect that something criminal is happening at the inn. She finds herself drawn into dangerous situations, and falls in love with a man she doesn’t trust, before she discovers a secret even darker than she’d anticipated.

Eloise by Kay Thompson– Eloise is a precocious child, living in the Plaza Hotel. “Getting bored is not allowed” so Eloise fills her days with various (self assigned) jobs and adventures. It’s a great look at the world of a child who turns a luxury hotel upside down. When I was a little kid I wanted to be Eloise!

Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner – This one about Edith Hope who writes romance novels under a different name. But when she realizes her life is looking like the plot of one of her novels (and not in a good way!) she escapes to the quiet luxury of the titular Swiss hotel. But the hotel’s other guests all seem to come with their own drama.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James This is a pretty decent ghost story/mystery. In 1982 upstate NY, Viv takes a job as a clerk at the titular motel. But something creepy is happening there. In 2017, Carly has heard all about her aunt Viv, who disappeared from the Sun Down Motel before she was born. Unable to let the story go, she moves to Fell, NY and gets a job at the motel. She learns that a lot of things there are still the same, including the things that may have cost Viv her life. The story is told in alternating chapters between the two time periods, but it all comes together at the end.

The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis In 1945 actresses Hazel and Maxine meet on a USO tour of Italy. Five years later, they reunite. Hazel is working as a playwright now and Maxine is cast in the lead role of her play. Both are living in the Chelsea Hotel, which a number of artists of various kinds call home. But as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s Red Scare gains momentum, both Hazel and Maxine and the other artistic residents of the Chelsea find themselves under suspicion. Lies, espionage, betrayal and more abound.

The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell Sophie wants to put her messy past behind her in St. Carys. When Josh arrives in the idyllic seaside town to run his family’s hotel, he’s taken aback by Sophie’s lack of interest in him (women are usually very interested in him). But there are other dramas happening. Josh is tricked into hiring Sophie’s friend, Tula who seems to have a crush on him that’s unrequited. Meanwhile, someone else has a thing for Tula. And things get more complicated from there… This is frothy fun set in a seaside hotel.

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye – Alice “Nobody” James is a gun moll who arrives in Portland, Oregon in 1921 escaping a violent past. Her newly acquired travelling companion, Max, brings her to the Paragon Hotel to be treated for a bullet wound. The segregated city’s only all black hotel may be an unlikely hiding place, but it has the advantage of a doctor who doesn’t ask too many questions. As she recovers, Nobody is drawn into the lives of the hotel’s residents, especially Blossom, a secretive chanteuse, and Davy a lovable mixed race orphan who is cared for by the hotel’s staff. When Davy disappears, the racial tensions in the city reach a boiling point, and Nobody may be the only person who can safely make inquiries.

Top Ten Tuesday: TBR Progress Update

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

This was this week’s topic:

June 15: Books On My Summer 2021 TBR (or winter, if you live in the southern hemisphere)

But since I’m trying to read through old TBRs before making new ones (I doubt I’ll be able to stick to this resolution for long!) I decided to revisit some old TBRs and do a progress update. If you’re interested, I did one of these in the past, and I’m trying not to repeat books:

  • Majesty: American Royals by Kristin McGree (on my Fall 2020 TBR) This was silly and soap opera-ish but enjoyable for those times when that’s exactly what you need. I made a mental note (that I’m just now remembering) to check out more of McGee’s work for that purpose.

  • How to Stop Time by Matt Haig (2018 TBR) This was a disappointment. It had a really compelling premise, that I really wanted to like, but it was turned into a just OK book. It wasn’t bad, but it was good enough for me to wish it were better.

  • Tangerine by Christine Mangan (2018 TBR) I remember liking a lot about this one, but I don’t remember much about it! I think it had sort of an “old Hollywood” feel that I liked. It felt like a mashup of elements of Agatha Christie, Daphne DuMaurier, Patricia Highsmith and Alfred Hitchcock.

  • The 7 and 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (2018 TBR, Apparently I read a lot from this list!) This was another one that I was really excited for based on the premise, but the execution fell flat for me. I think the Groundhog Day-eque premise needs to be really done well, in order for the book to work. If it’s not, it just feels repetitive. In this case I’d start to get interested in where it was going and then I was frustrated to be sent back to the beginning again! Again, I didn’t dislike it, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

  • Hearts and Bones by Margaret Lawrence (Backlist TBR) This lived on my shelf for many years. I wasn’t in the mood for it, really, for one reason or another. During lockdown, I finally read it, and didn’t much like it. Once again, not bad, but I liked it less than I liked some of the other books on this list that disappointed me! Here, the problem was that I didn’t like the characters or care about the plot. I really need one out of two!

  • The Light Years by Elizabeth Jane Howard (Backlist TBR) I liked this one, but I didn’t love it. So I’m sort of torn about continuing with the series. There are four more Cazalet books out there, and I’m on the fence about whether or not they’re worth reading. I did enjoy the first book, but a five book series just feels like quite an investment!

  • An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear (TBR Procrastination) This was my fifth, and I think, final (for now, at least) book in the Maisie Dobbs series. Jacqueline Winspear is a talented author, and It’s not that I don’t like them, but I feel that each one covers mostly the same ground. If the tone were slightly different that might work. For example if these were cozy mysteries I might find the same thing charming, over and over. But these are really depressing. Like they take place in during the Great Depression, with characters traumatized by WWI. And of course they’re working with crimes all the time, so it gets pretty bleak. None of the characters have grown on developed enough to make me feel like it’s worthwhile.

  • The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (Upcoming Releases for the 2nd Half of 2019) This was an enjoyable dual timeline thriller. I do wish that Simone St. James would return to the historical, gothic, romantic mysteries where she started out. Her last two books have had more contemporary settings, at least in part, (though they’ve had dual timelines as well) and while they’re good, my personal tastes tend toward to historical. I’ll keep reading her books though, because they’re still fun.

  • Milkman by Anna Burns (Winter 2018-2019 TBR) I read this after it won the Man Booker Prize. I was a bit nervous going into it, because I’d heard mixed things, but I ended up liking it more than I realized at the time. It’s not an easy read in terms of understanding what’s going on, so it required some mental effort to read. But looking back on it, I appreciate it in a way I didn’t quite “get” while I was reading it. So this one is a bit better in retrospect.

Top Ten Tuesday: Dark Academia

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

June 1: Freebie (choose any past topic, or come up with you own)

Lately I’ve been really into what I’d call “dark academia” as a literary subgenre. I love academic settings. I love gloomy gothic trappings. I love weirdness. So it’s really no surprise that I’d love literary mashups of all of that!

1.The Secret History by Donna Tartt-This is sort of a definitive cornerstone of the genre. It follows Richard, a student at a New England college. He wants to study Greek, and Julian, the enigmatic professor eventually allows Richard into his selective tutorial of only six students. Richard is slowly drawn into the world of the other students. But it’s a world that goes beyond the boundaries of morality and even legality. As Richard finds himself privy to the group’s secrets, he also learns that some members of the group will stop at nothing, including murder. I read this in my senior year of high school, and it just so happened that we were reading Crime and Punishment at the same time in one of my classes. I’m glad that was the case, because I think that it allowed me to get more out of The Secret History, since Dostoyevsky’s work is clearly a strong influence. I’m actually sort of surprised that Hollywood hasn’t tackled this book yet. But I think it would be a hard book to translate to film in a way that worked.

2. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro– This has all the elements of dark academic setting with a bit of a sci-fi twist. Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are all students at Hailsham, an isolated boarding school in the English countryside. The atmosphere of the school is very cliquey and the teachers always remind the students how “special” they are. Years later, with the knowledge and understanding of how and why they were “special,” Ruth reflects on her time and Hailsham, and the friendships she formed there. There’s a film version of the book, and while it’s a pretty good adaptation, it tells the viewer what makes the students at Haimsham special in the first ten minutes or so. In the book it’s sort of a gradual, growing realization for the reader. As I started to understand, I was sort of hoping I was wrong. I think that experience is a part of what makes this book special, and it’s definitely why I’d recommend reading the book before seeing the film.

3. The Lake of Dead Languages by Carol Goodman– Actually a lot of Goodman’s work, including the Fairwick trilogy (a romantic fantasy series that she initially wrote under the name “Juliet Black,”) and her YA fantasy Blythewood series, qualifies for this list. I chose this book to feature mostly because it doesn’t incorporate as many other genres. A week before her high school graduation, Jane Hudson fled the Heart Lake School For Girls after three of her classmates committed suicide. Jane was the only one who knew the truth about their fates, and she carried that knowledge with her for the next twenty years, When she returns to the school as a Latin teacher, troubled students once again begin to die, and the memories that Jane repressed for so long, begin to surface.

4. Villette by Charlotte BronteJane Eyre comes to mind first of course, and there is a notably dark school setting early in that book, but the setting also changes very early in the book. This book, on the other hand, has all of the gothic-ness that we expect from Bronte, and it’s set almost entirely in a boarding school in Belgium. The heroine, Lucy Snow, travels there to teach after a family disaster, and becomes involved in romance, intrigue and adventure. I do think Jane Eyre is a “easier read,” and it also features a dark aesthetic with academic plot points, so I’d recommend readers unfamiliar with Bronte start there. But Villette is an enjoyable next step in the Bronte journey through dark academia.

5. The Broken Girls by Simone St. James– Idlewild Hall is a Vermont boarding school for girls that’s reputed to be haunted. In the 1950’s four students at the school became good friends, until one of them disappears. More than 60 years later, journalist, Fiona Sheridan’s sister’s body is found near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. Her boyfriend was convicted of the murder, but Fiona has her doubts. When she learns that the school is being restored by a mysterious benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But what she learns involves a horrifying secret that connects her sisters murder to the disappearance so long ago.

6. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray – The whole Gemma Doyle trilogy is a lovely mix of Victorian Gothic and fantasy with a boarding school setting. Gemma Doyle is sent from the life she knew in India, in 1895, to Spence, an English boarding school, following the death of her mother. Gemma is initially lonely. She’s haunted by her mother’s death and visions that have a tendency to come true. But things get really crazy when Gemma is drawn into a clique of girls who are dipping their toes into the world of spirits. What they learn will change them forever.

7. Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss– I was a bit iffy about whether to include this one, because it’s not set in a “traditional” academic setting. Silvie and her family live in modern England, but they live as if they’re ancient Britons, with the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age. One summer, Silvie’s father takes the family to join an anthropology course that is reenacting life in the Iron Age. But mixing with these students gives Sylvie a chance to see the prospect of a life away from her father’s obsession with the ancient Britons. As the group gets closer to the lifestyle of their subjects, things take a darker turn. The push and pull between the modern life that intrigues Sylvie, and the ancient life that obsesses her father, becomes a tug of war. Even though it’s not set in a school, the fact that it’s set amongst students in a practical exercise gives it that “academic” feeling.

8. Red Leaves by Paullina Simons– Kristina, Jim, Conni and Albert are all students at Dartmouth College. They have a close friendship, and one Thanksgiving weekend they all decide to stay on campus. When Kristina’s body is found in a snowbank shortly after, detective, Spencer O’Malley is on the case. As he learns about the groups dynamics, questions arise. Why did Kristina’s friends fail to report her missing? Their answers to his questions reveal a web of jealousy, secrets, deceptions, and possibly murder.

9. Down A Dark Hall by Lois Duncan- A ghost story set in a mysterious gothic boarding school. Pretty much made for this list! Actually Duncan’s Daughters of Eve also fits it pretty well, but I’ll go with this, since it’s the first one I thought of. Kit Gordy is sent to Blackwood Academy when her mother remarries. She’s not happy about it. She’s even more disturbed when she learns that she’s one of only four students accepted this term. When Blackwood’s students begin to show amazing talents in the arts and sciences, Kit can’t help but notice that it’s taking a toll on their health. She often wakes up with sore arms and fingers. The headmistress is quick to explain everything away, until Kit learns something that puts her and her classmates in terrible danger. I devoured this book when I was eleven or twelve. I don’t know how well it holds up, but I did recently see the film adaptation which wasn’t bad.

10. The Magus by John Fowles– Nicholas Urfe is a young Englishman who takes a teaching job on a remote Greek island. There he meets Conchis, the reclusive millionaire who owns the island. Conchis offers Nicholas what seems to be friendship. But he is drawn into a twisted game of betrayal, violence, and psychological traps. Soon Nicholas is unable to tell past from present and fantasy from reality. He finds himself fighting to maintain his sanity and stay alive. Even though this is set at a school on an island, most of the action takes place outside the school. But I’m counting this because I’d call the relationship that Conchis has with Nicolas to be very academic (at least to start off). There’s also a film adaptation, but I haven’t seen it yet.

Fall Book Tag

I saw this on BookWyrmKnits‘ blog and thought it look like fun so I decided to go for it. It’s originally from Bionic Book Worm

I decided to stick to books I’ve read in the past year or so too.

Rules:

  • Please link back to Bionic Book Worm as the creator of this tag!!
  • Use the graphics – if you want
  • Have fun!

The Witches of Crannock Dale by Thomas M. Kane is a twisty espionage story mixed with a coming of age tale. They’re not genres that lend themselves to being combined easily (most eleven year olds don’t engage in spycraft!) and I’m not sure who the intended audience is. Adult readers? YA? Or both? Because I think it can appeal to readers of different ages.

Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key certainly surprised me. The twists, when they were revealed made sense with the story. I was able to look back on what I’d read and see little “clues” and “hints” where I’d missed them before.

Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals is the first of his Corfu trilogy about his British family’s move to the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930’s. Young Gerry’s adventures with animals of the island, and his mother and siblings adventures and misadventures with the people, are funny. The Durrells come to feel like family as you read. This trilogy was also the basis for the TV series The Durrell’s in Corfu.

The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James features beautiful fall colors on the cover. It’s also a spooky story that might be appropriate for Halloween season (which makes it even stranger that the story is in June!)

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes had a lot of action, but I don’t recommend the book. I found it to be gratuitously violent and gory, which is fine, if that’s what you’re into. I’m not though.

I think this means something still on my TBR, so I’ll say Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It’s one of many books on my TBR, but I’ve also heard really good things about it from several sources. I love gothicness and I love the idea of a Mexican setting.

This is sort of an old tag (2017) but fun. I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you decide to do this, let me know in the comments, so I can check it out!

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Covers With Fall Colors

For That Artsy Read Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

October 6: Book Covers with Fall Colors/Vibes (or spring if you live in the southern hemisphere)

I decided to only go with covers of books I’ve read this year.

  1. The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

2. Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon

3. The Whole Art Of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Homes by Lyndsay Faye

4. The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

5. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell

6. A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

7. Meet Me in Monaco: A Novel of Grace Kelly’s Royal Wedding by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

8. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

9. The Hob’s Bargain by Patricia Briggs

10. Final Girls by Riley Sager

A lot of these are also good Halloween reads. I don’t know if that was a conscious choice on the part of the cover designers, but it’s possible. Happy fall!

Top Ten Tuesday: Upcoming Releases for the 2nd Half of 2019

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

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June 18: Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2019

91jsy6np7vl._ac_ul436_1. The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis– I’ve enjoyed Fiona Davis’ previous novels The Address and The Dollhouse. Like those, this is set in historical NYC, which is one of my favorite literary settings.

  • Publication Date: July 30, 2019

81aluwjrekl._ac_ul436_2. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware–  I liked several of Ruth Ware’s previous thrillers (In A Dark, Dark Wood, The Woman in Cabin 10) and I really enjoyed her most recent The Death of Mrs. Westaway, so hopefully this one continues that trend.

  • Publication Date: August 6, 2019

71x4baxyxvl._ac_ul436_3. The Testaments (The Handmaid’s Tale #2) by Margaret Atwood- I have mixed feelings about this sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. While it was a very influential book in my life, I do wish a sequel didn’t feel as timely or relevant as it does. But I’m definitely curious about Atwood’s response to some of what has happened since the publication of The Handmaid’s Tale.

  • Publication Date: September 10, 2019

81r6y57acfl._ac_ul436_4. Akin by Emma Donoghue – Emma Donoghue is another favorite author of mine. I loved The Wonder, Room, and Slammerkin. The setting of this one (Post WWII France) intrigues me too.

  • Publication Date: September 10, 2019

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5. The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern– I really enjoyed Morgernstern’s debut The Night Circus and I’ve been eagerly awaiting her follow up.

  • Publication Date: November 5, 2019

81ypuey8lbl._ac_ul320_6. I Like To Watch by Emily Nussbaum– I think that Emily Nussbaum’s essays arguing for new ways of criticizing TV have the potential to be both entertaining and insightful.

  • Publication Date: June 25, 2019

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7. The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West– I think that this look at the sociopolitical moment that we’re in has the potential to be incisive and funny.  In this book, West looks at films, TV shows, internet phenomena and lifestyle guru’s who have created our culture.

  • Publication Date: November 5, 2019

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8. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James–  (is this cheating since technically it’s released in early 2020?) I discovered Simone St. James last year and I really like her gothic romantic suspense. She seems to be moving into more contemporary stuff with her last few books but as of now, I’m still along for the ride.

  • Publication Date: February 18, 2020

9124eym6u8l._ac_ul436_9. Where The Light Enters by Sara Donati– I’ve been looking to Sara Donati’s follow up to The Gilded Hour for a while. I really enjoyed the first book in her new series and I’m eager to see how she develops the plot and the characters.

  • Publication Date: September 10, 2019

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10. The End of Forever Saga by Paullina Simons– I’ve had really varied reactions to Paullina Simons as a writer. But this trilogy, that incorporates romance and time travel sounds like it might be up my alley. The first book has already been released and reactions seem pretty polarizing. Some loved it some didn’t. Then other two books are being released over the next couple of months so I’m sure I’ll get around to them at some point soon.

 

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: New To Me Authors of 2018

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

January 15: New-to-Me Authors I Read In 2018

41Krb0iOt7L._AC_US218_1. Laura Purcell- I really enjoyed The Silent Companions, and I look forward to reading Laura Purcell’s Victorian gothic follow up, The Poison Thread. Before she wrote gothic creepiness, Purcell wrote historical fiction, and I’m also interested in checking out her Georgian Queens duology.

 

 

51culgbrdcl-_ac_us218_2. Simone St. James-  I binged The Other Side of Midnight, An Inquiry Into Love and Death, Silence for the DeadLost Among the Living, and The Broken Girls. The Haunting of Maddy Clare is the only book that she’s written at this point that I haven’t read! Her historical gothic romantic suspense is a lot of fun.

 

 

51mxt4oifll-_ac_us218_3. Katherine Arden- I really enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale in 2018 and the two follow ups, The Girl in the Tower, and The Winter of the Witch are on my 2019 TBR.

 

 

 

51dir0tpoel._ac_us218_4.  Ruth Hogan- I really enjoyed Ruth Hogan’s The Keeper of Lost Things. Her follow up, The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes has really good reviews so far, so I hope to read it soon.

 

 

 

51dwdwqvoal._ac_us218_5. Vita Sackville-West- I’d heard of this author before but never read any of her work. I really enjoyed All Passion Spent, and I look forward to exploring some of her other novels like Family History and The Edwardians. 

 

 

 

51qphks8hyl-_ac_us218_6. Eve Babitz- I really liked Eve Babitz’s essay collection Eve’s Hollywood and autobiographical novel Sex and Rage.  I hope to read some of her other books like LA Woman, Black Swans, and Slow Days, Fast Company.

 

 

 

51uywe9mfql-_ac_us218_7. Julia Brannan- I enjoyed Brannan’s Mask of Duplicity, and I hope to read her follow ups in her Jacobite Chronicles series.

 

 

 

51islkdgaql-_ac_us218_8. Bee Ridgway- I really enjoyed Bee Ridgway’s The River of No Return. That was written in 2013, but it definitely leaves off on a cliff hanger, with teasers for a sequel. In 2014 Ridgway released the novella The Time Tutor, which was a prequel. Since then, there’s no word of a sequel though. I don’t know if I want to invest any more time in this until there is!

 

51aacv7edrl._ac_us218_9. Kat Howard- I enjoyed Roses and Rot, and I look forward to reading A Cathedral of Myth and Bone and An Unkindness of Magicians.

 

 

 

I realize that all these writers are female, which was a coincidence. It was not my intention when I made the list!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Thanksgiving/Thankful Freebie

For That Artsy Reader Girl‘s Top Ten Tuesday:

November 20: Thanksgiving/Thankful Freebie

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Last year I did a list of ten books that made an impact on my life (or the world in a way) that I’m grateful for. But this year I’m doing ten books that gave me a much needed escape from my real life and the real world. There have been times when I think having that ability to escape has kept me sane and I’m grateful for that. These aren’t all great books by any stretch of the imagination. But I found them at a point in time when they were just what I needed.

51culgbrdcl-_ac_us218_1. The Other Side of Midnight by Simone St. Ja whmes– I read this one when things at work were kind of crazy and overwhelming. It was a relief to be able to come home from work and escape to a murder mystery and romance in 1920’s London.

 

 

518ejevmohl-_ac_us218_2. The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn– This past summer there was a job opportunity that I really wanted that didn’t work out. Naturally I was disappointed, and I was replaying my interview and getting angry at myself for not being more impressive. But it was great to pick up this book about a woman who had a much bigger reason to be angry at herself than I did, and much bigger problems than a temporary disappointment!

 

51o8egjihul-_ac_us218_3. My Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella– I read this one when I was getting ready to start a new job and I was kind of nervous. The heroine here is also in a professional limbo but that was really the only similarity to my own life. It was sweet and funny and light enough to float on for a while.

 

 

51dqnh9enml-_ac_us218_4. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye– I was in a stressful situation regarding a friend of mine when I read this. Sometimes in stressful times I want to revisit an old favorite (like seeing an old friend), and sometimes I want the novelty of something I’ve never read before. This darkly comic re-imagining of Jane Eyre offer both novelty and familiarity.

 

 

61ezfwf-vnl-_ac_us218_5. Falling for You by Jill Mansell– Remember the election of 2016? It was a horrible time where each day you felt like the world was descending further and further into a black hole. And in ended in the worst way possible… I read a lot of Jill Mansell at that point. Her light, funny, romantic comedies were about all I could handle and were an escape to a world where people were nicer…

 

51mmrr0hqcl-_ac_us218_6. Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal– In 2015-2016 I suffered several significant losses in my personal life. It was an incredibly stressful period and the Glamourist series was the complete break from reality that I needed at the time. Think Jane Austen but writing fantasy. Yep, that’s what I needed.

 

 

41tmygolmvl-_ac_us218_7. The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marion Keyes– Anyone who deals with a chronic health condition can probably relate to the heroine of this book who feels like her life has been stolen by illness. But there’s an element of wish fulfillment too as that very illness ends up delivering fame, fortune, and Mr. (or in this Dr.) Right to her doorstep. Realistic? No. But living in a fantasy world can be fun too!

 

51d6qta-nll-_ac_us218_8. Spells at the Crossroads by Barbara Ashford– You know when you’re writing a novel and you’re on the seventeenth draft and wondering if you should just trash the whole thing? Well I was lucky to find this weird fairy tale- musical theatre hybrid story when I was feeling totally blocked creatively. It isn’t a great book by any means but it combined two things I love in a totally bizarre way that drew me in and reminded me that there are no rules that you have to follow when it comes to creativity.

51ilpdd3pwl-_ac_us218_9. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wrecker- I was just in one of those periods where everything feels like too much when I read this tale of two mythical beings set in turn of the century NYC. It helped to know that I could deal with reality during the day, and then come home at night and spend some time in a fantasy.

 

 

515oqah-rtl-_ac_us218_10. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid– This was another book I read in 2016 which was a horrible year for me personally as well as the world in general I think. A lot of what I read at the time was an attempt to escape into fantasy. This isn’t fantasy per se, but the life of a glamorous movie star in Old Hollywood is also about a far away from my day to day existence as you can get!

 

 

So this year, I’m thankful for books that let me escape the stress of reality.

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!