Top Ten Tuesday: Books with animals in the title

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is “Books with animals in the title and/or covers with animals on them”.

I’ve read lots of books with animals in the title – the only problem was deciding on ten of them!

Here’s my list:

1. The Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart – I always enjoy Mary Stewart’s novels and I found this one, set in Syria and Lebanon, a particularly fascinating story. The ‘hounds’ of the title are owned by our narrator’s Great-Aunt Harriet who lives near Beirut and models herself on the real-life adventurer Lady Hester Stanhope.

2. Frog Music by Emma Donoghue – I’ve read several of Donoghue’s novels now and have found each one very different from the one before. This one takes place in 1870s San Francisco and features a nightclub dancer, a trapeze artist and a woman who catches frogs to sell to restaurants. The plot is based on a true story of an unsolved murder.

3. The Viper of Milan by Marjorie Bowen – Published in 1906, this was the first novel by the very prolific Marjorie Bowen and is set in 14th century Italy, following the rivalry between the Duke of Milan and the Duke of Verona. I was surprised to find that it was one of Graham Greene’s favourite books and influenced his own early work.

4. Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson – The fourth book in Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie mystery series. I’ve read all of them but this one, which moves back and forth between a murder case in the 1970s and a modern day attempt to trace the origins of an adopted child, is not one of my favourites. Like the others in the series, I found that the crime element takes second place to the personal storylines of the characters.

5. The Pale Horse by Agatha Christie – A standalone Christie with neither Poirot nor Miss Marple, although another of her recurring characters, the crime writer Ariadne Oliver, does make an appearance. With a plot involving three women believed to be witches, this is an atmospheric and unsettling novel with a real sense of evil and a hint of the supernatural. It’s not one of my top few Christies but I did enjoy it.

6. Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively – The first and only one of Lively’s adult novels I’ve read, although I did read several of her children’s books when I was younger. The story unfolds through a series of memories and episodes which combine to form a portrait of our protagonist, Claudia. I found the book fragmented and confusing, but liked it overall, particularly the vivid descriptions of Claudia’s time in Egypt as a war correspondent.

7. Prince of Foxes by Samuel Shellabarger – A classic historical adventure novel published in 1947. Set in Renaissance Italy, it’s the story of Andrea Orsini, who is given the task of negotiating a marriage between Alfonso d’Este and Lucrezia Borgia. I described it in my review as involving “battles, duels, clever disguises, last-minute escapes, sieges, miracles and all sorts of trickery and deception”. I loved it, but still haven’t read any of Shellabarger’s other books.

8. A Marriage of Lions by Elizabeth Chadwick – This book, by one of my favourite authors of medieval historical fiction, tells the story of Joanna de Munchensy of Swanscombe and her marriage to William de Valence, the younger half-brother of Henry III. Set against the backdrop of the Second Barons’ War and the conflict between the King and Simon de Montfort, this is a fascinating read with a focus on two lesser known historical figures.

9. Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d by Alan Bradley – This is the eighth book in Bradley’s mystery series starring child detective Flavia de Luce. Despite the young heroine, these are not really ‘children’s books’ and Bradley has said they were originally intended for adults. This adult reader has certainly found that they have a lot to offer!

10. Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeigh – This book is set in Kenya in the 1950s and is surprisingly dark, which you might not have guessed from the cover. That’s because it deals with the Mau Mau Uprising of 1952, during which the Mau Mau people began to rebel against British rule, with lots of ensuing violence and brutality. It’s an interesting and balanced novel and I learned a lot from it.


Have you read any of these? Which other books with animals in the title can you think of?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with ‘Heart’ in the title

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is a “Love/Valentine’s Day Freebie”.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day I have listed ten books I’ve read with the word ‘heart’ in the title. However, they are not all love stories – in fact, most of them aren’t!


1. Second Hand Heart by Catherine Ryan Hyde – A moving novel exploring the theory of cellular memory – the idea that a transplanted organ retains the memories and characteristics of its previous owner.

2. The Heart of Midlothian by Sir Walter Scott – This classic novel is set in Edinburgh during the 1736 Porteous Riots. It’s not my favourite of the few novels I’ve read by Scott, but I did like the heroine, Jeanie Deans, who walks all the way to London to try to save her sister’s life.

3. The Obscure Logic of the Heart by Priya Basil – The story of a Sikh man and a Muslim woman who fall in love as students, this is the only real ‘romance’ on my list, but it’s also so much more than that, touching on politics, poverty, gun crime and the work of the UN.

4. The Metal Heart by Caroline Lea – In this book set during World War II, Caroline Lea weaves the story of two twin sisters around the building of a chapel in the Orkney Islands by Italian prisoners of war. An interesting blend of fact and fiction.

5. Bleeding Heart Square by Andrew Taylor – This standalone historical mystery is set in 1930s London. It’s both an entertaining novel and a fascinating portrayal of the rise of Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists.

6. The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne – The story of Ireland from the 1940s to the modern day as seen through the eyes of Cyril Avery, a gay man trying to come to terms with his sexuality, and written with John Boyne’s usual wit and humour.

7. With All My Heart by Margaret Campbell Barnes – A fictional account of the life of Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese princess who marries King Charles II. First published in 1951, it does feel dated now but is interesting as Catherine is not a popular subject for historical fiction.

8. Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon – The eighth book in Gabaldon’s Outlander series sees Claire and Jamie in America in the middle of the Revolutionary War. It’s not a favourite of mine – I loved the first four in the series, but have been gradually losing interest with each book after that.

9. The Oaken Heart by Margery Allingham – Better known for her Albert Campion detective novels, this is Allingham’s memoir of life in her small English village during the Second World War. Originally published in 1941, while the war was still taking place.

10. The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements – Set in the 17th century, this novel is inspired by the real life highwaywoman, Katherine Ferrers, also known as ‘the Wicked Lady’. Not much is known about the historical woman, but Clements brings her story to life while also portraying England in the aftermath of Civil War.


Have you read any of these books? Which other books with ‘heart’ in the title can you think of?

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I discovered in 2022

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is “New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2022”. There were lots of authors I tried for the first time last year, but the ten I’m listing below are all authors I enjoyed and am hoping to read again.


1. Catriona McPhersonIn Place of Fear, a mystery set in 1940s Edinburgh, was my first book by Scottish author McPherson. I think I might try one of her Dandy Gilver mysteries next.

2. Nevil Shute – I finally got round to reading Pied Piper last year and enjoyed it. A Town Like Alice is probably going to be the next book I read by Shute.

3. Frances Quinn – Frances Quinn’s That Bonesetter Woman was one of my books of the year in 2022, so I’m looking forward to reading her previous novel, The Smallest Man.

4. F. Tennyson Jesse – I had wanted to read A Pin to See the Peepshow, Jesse’s retelling of the Thompson/Bywaters murder case, for years and was finally able to with this new British Library edition. Her other books seem to be more difficult to find.

5. Tom Mead – I loved Death and the Conjuror, a new mystery series set in the 1930s and featuring retired magician Joseph Spector. The next book, The Murder Wheel, is out in July!

6. Karen Joy Fowler – Another book I enjoyed last year was Booth, Karen Joy Fowler’s fictional biography of the theatrical Booth family. Her books had never appealed to me before, but I obviously need to look at them again,

7. Patricia Wentworth – I chose Fool Errant as my first Patricia Wentworth novel for last year’s 1929 Club. I didn’t love it but it was entertaining and I’m hoping to try another of her books soon, maybe one of her Miss Silver mysteries.

8. William Boyd – Another of my books of the year for 2022 was my first William Boyd novel, The Romantic. He has a very extensive backlist which I’m looking forward to exploring.

9. Jill Dawson – I enjoyed The Bewitching, based on the true story of the Witches of Warboys. Her previous books seem to cover a wide range of topics and settings – the problem will be deciding which one to try next!

10. ETA Hoffmann – I read The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr for last year’s German Literature Month. It’s a very unusual and original novel and was a good introduction to his work!


Have you read any of these authors? Which new (or new-to-you) authors did you discover last year?

Top Ten Tuesday: History and Geography!

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by Jana of That Artsy Reader Girl, is “Books with Geographical Terms in the Title” (for example: mountain, island, latitude/longitude, ash, bay, beach, border, canyon, cape, city, cliff, coast, country, desert, epicenter, hamlet, highway, jungle, ocean, park, sea, shore, tide, valley, etc).

I haven’t taken part in Top Ten Tuesday for a few months, so thought I would join in with this one. The topic was suggested by Lisa, who blogs at Hopewell’s Public Library of Life.

The ten books I’ve listed below are all historical novels with geographical terms in the title and they are all books that I’ve reviewed on my blog. They are also all written by female authors, although I didn’t do that intentionally!

1. Hungry Hill by Daphne du Maurier – This is a family saga following five generations of the Brodrick family of Clonmere Castle in Ireland. A curse placed on the family by a feuding neighbour seems to come true as each generation experiences tragedy, unhappiness and bad luck. Du Maurier is one of my favourite authors and although I did like this one, it was certainly bleak and miserable!

2. The Child from the Sea by Elizabeth Goudge – The first Goudge novel I read, this is a beautifully written book telling the story of Lucy Walter, a Welsh girl from Pembrokeshire who later becomes a mistress of King Charles II.

3. The Country of Others by Leïla Slimani – This book was originally written in French and is available in an English translation by Sam Taylor. It’s the story of a young woman from France who marries a Moroccan soldier in the 1940s and goes to live with him in Morocco, but finds that settling into life in a new country is much more difficult than she’d expected.

4. The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley – A multiple timeline novel which moves between wartime London, 1970s Ireland and modern day New York. Unusually, I found all of the storylines equally interesting to read about; normally I find myself drawn to one or the other.

5. The Romance of the Forest by Ann Radcliffe – This 1791 classic is set in 17th century France. It’s not Radcliffe’s best, but it’s still an entertaining read with all the elements you would expect in a Gothic novel, including dark forests, ruined buildings and gloomy weather.

6. Islands of Mercy by Rose Tremain – This novel set in the 19th century follows two very different characters: a young nurse from Bath and an eccentric Englishman living on the island of Borneo. It should have been fascinating but I found it disjointed and it’s the only Rose Tremain novel I’ve read so far that I haven’t enjoyed.

7. The Light Between Oceans by ML Stedman – I loved this book about a young couple living in a lighthouse on an island off the coast of Australia in 1926. When a boat with a baby girl in it is washed up on the shore, they have different opinions over whether to keep the child to raise as their own. A moving and thought-provoking read.

8. In a Dark Wood Wandering by Hella S Haasse – I read this in an English translation by Lewis C Kaplan as it was originally published in Dutch in 1949. It’s set in France during the Hundred Years’ War and written from the perspective of Charles of Orléans. A beautifully written novel and one that I loved.

9. City of God by Cecelia Holland – Cecelia Holland is a very prolific author whose books cover a wide range of time periods and topics. This one is set in Rome at the time of the Borgias and follows the story of a secretary in the Florentine embassy who becomes drawn into Borgia conspiracies.

10. River of Destiny by Barbara Erskine – I’ve tried a few Erskine novels now and am not really a fan, but they do all have interesting settings. This book has three storylines, one set in Anglo-Saxon England, one in the Victorian period and the other in the present day, all linked by sightings of a ghostly Viking ship.


Have you read any of these? Which other books with geographical terms in the title can you think of?

Top Ten Tuesday: Upcoming releases

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by Jana of That Artsy Reader Girl, is “Most Anticipated Books Releasing In the Second Half of 2022”.

Here are ten books due to be published in the second half of this year that I’m looking forward to reading. Publication dates were correct for the UK as of today, but could change.

1. The Blood Flower by Alex Reeve (7 July) – The fourth book in the Leo Stanhope series, one of my current favourite historical mystery series.

2. The Bewitching by Jill Dawson (7 July) – A novel about the 16th-century case of the witches of Warboys. I have a copy of this one from NetGalley and have just started reading it.

3. The House of Fortune by Jessie Burton (7 July) – Has it really been eight years since The Miniaturist was released? I hope the sequel will be just as good!

4. The Twist of a Knife by Anthony Horowitz (18 August) – The next book in the Horowitz and Hawthorne mystery series. I’ve enjoyed all of the previous three (my review of the third one should be up in the next few weeks).

5. The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell (30 August) – I didn’t love Hamnet as much as most people did, but I thought it was beautifully written and would like to try Maggie O’Farrell’s new book, set in Renaissance Italy.

6. Act of Oblivion by Robert Harris (1 September) – Robert Harris is one of my favourite authors, so a new book by him is always something to look forward to!

7. Ithaca by Claire North (6 September) – This Greek myth retelling about Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, is another book I have from NetGalley and will read nearer the publication date.

8. The Hidden Palace by Dinah Jefferies (15 September) – I’ve read all of Dinah Jefferies’ books and this one will be the second in her new World War II trilogy, which began last year with Daughters of War.

9. Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson (27 September) – Kate Atkinson is another author I always look forward to reading. I don’t know much about her new book but I’m sure it will be great.

10. Blue Water by Leonora Nattrass (20 October) – I enjoyed the debut novel by Leonora Nattrass, Black Drop, so I’m interested in reading this sequel.


Will you be reading any of these? Which new releases are you looking forward to in the second half of 2022?

Top Ten Tuesday: A Journey Through Time

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by Jana of That Artsy Reader Girl, is “Books With a Unit of Time In the Title (seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, eternity, etc.) (Submitted by RS @ The Idealistic Daydream)”.

I decided to make things more interesting by starting with a very short period of time and becoming gradually longer! All of the titles on my list are books that I’ve read and reviewed on my blog.

1. The Second Sleep by Robert Harris – I’m starting with a title which includes the word ‘second’. Robert Harris is a favourite author of mine and I usually love his books, but I found this one a bit disappointing. It seems at first to be a conventional historical novel set in rural England in the year 1468, but it turns out to be something very different! A fascinating idea, but not what I had expected.

2. Ten-Second Staircase by Christopher Fowler – I don’t seem to have reviewed any books with ‘minute’ in the title, so I’m going with something longer than a second but not as long as an hour. This is the fourth novel in Fowler’s Bryant and May series which follows the investigations of two octogenarian detectives working for London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit.

3. The Distant Hours by Kate Morton – I’ve read most of Kate Morton’s books, although this isn’t one of my favourites. Moving between the 1990s and 1940s, the novel has lots of gothic elements from crumbling castles to family secrets and I did find it entertaining, but much longer than it really needed to be.

4. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham – I don’t read a lot of science fiction, but I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by John Wyndham. In The Day of the Triffids, after an unusual display of meteors throws the world into chaos, an aggressive species of tall and vicious plants begin to dominate. A fascinating, but unsettling read.

5. A Week in Paris by Rachel Hore – In this dual timeline novel, the ‘modern’ storyline is set in 1961 and follows music student Fay Knox who is spending a week in Paris trying to discover the truth about her childhood. The other narrative tells the story of Fay’s mother during the occupation of Paris during World War II. I enjoyed this book, but much preferred the wartime storyline to the 1960s one.

6. The Nine Day Queen by Ella March Chase – Lady Jane Grey lasted slightly longer than a week on the throne of England. Her nine day reign in July 1553 is the subject of this historical novel which also gives plenty of attention to the stories of Jane’s two younger sisters, Katherine and Mary.

7. Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne – I didn’t have any books with ‘month’ in the title, so am skipping ahead to ‘eighty days’ instead. This classic adventure novel follows the journey of Phileas Fogg who attempts to travel around the world in eighty days in order to win a bet. It’s an entertaining story, but it seemed such a waste to pass through so many countries without having time to explore them!

8. The Year Without Summer by Guinevere Glasfurd – This fascinating novel is set in 1816, the year after the eruption of Mount Tambora, an Indonesian volcano. Glasfurd tells the stories of six people, some real and some fictional, whose lives were affected by the extreme weather that followed the eruption.

9. Twenty Years After by Alexandre Dumas – This is the second book in Dumas’ d’Artagnan series and, as the title suggests, takes place twenty years after the events of The Three Musketeers. I loved this one every bit as much as the first book and I think it’s a shame it’s so much less well known.

10. Like This, For Ever by Sharon Bolton – For the final title on my list, I couldn’t decide between this one and Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End. Which is the longer period of time? They’re both the same, surely. Anyway, I settled on this one, which is the third novel in Bolton’s wonderful Lacey Flint crime series and one of my favourites!


Have you read any of these? Which other books with units of time in the title can you think of?

Top Ten Tuesday: Famous Authors in Fiction

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by Jana of That Artsy Reader Girl) is “Bookish Characters (these could be readers, writers, authors, librarians, professors, etc.)”

There were lots of ways to approach this topic, but I’ve decided to list ten historical fiction novels about the lives of real authors. I have read all of them apart from the last one, which I’m reading now. Let me know if you can think of any more!

1. Daphne du MaurierDaphne by Justine Picardie
I’m starting with one of my favourite authors, who is being celebrated this week in a Reading Week hosted by Heavenali. Picardie’s novel follows Daphne through the period when she was working on her biography of Branwell Brontë, while in the modern day we meet a PhD student who is writing a thesis on Daphne and the Brontës.

2. Charles Dickens and Wilkie CollinsDrood by Dan Simmons
This Gothic mystery is supposedly narrated by Wilkie Collins as he and Dickens (the two authors were good friends in real life) search Victorian London for a mysterious figure known only as Drood. There were some things I loved about the book – the setting, atmosphere and biographical information – but I was disappointed by the negative portrayal of Collins, who I confess to liking more than Dickens!

3. Charlotte, Emily and Anne BrontëA Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan
I’ve read a few other books about the Brontë sisters (and their brother Branwell), but didn’t enjoy any of them as much as Jude Morgan’s beautifully written novel. He captures the personalities of the three sisters so well.

4. William ShakespeareThe Tutor by Andrea Chapin
I’ve read other fictional portrayals of Shakespeare too – including one by Jude Morgan, in fact – but I decided to feature this one, in which Andrea Chapin explores a possible theory to explain what Shakespeare was doing during his ‘lost years’ of 1585-1592.

5. DH LawrenceZennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore
Zennor is a village on the coast of Cornwall and this novel is set during the period when DH Lawrence and his wife Frieda lived there towards the end of World War I. I loved the way Dunmore wrote about life in a small village during wartime, but found the parts of the book about the Lawrences less interesting.

6. EM ForsterArctic Summer by Damon Galgut
This novel follows Forster’s visits to India and Egypt and the relationships he forms there that will influence his novels. Although I found a lot to admire about this book, I think I would probably have enjoyed it more if I’d read more of Forster’s own work first.

7. Jakob and Wilhelm GrimmThe Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth
This book takes a fascinating look at the inspiration behind the Brothers Grimms’ well-known fairy tales. Forsyth writes the novel from the perspective of Dortchen Wild, a young woman who grows up next door to the Grimm family in the small German state of Hessen-Cassel.

8. Bram StokerShadowplay by Joseph O’Connor
The Irish author Bram Stoker’s story unfolds alongside the lives of English stage actors Henry Irving and Ellen Terry in this epistolary novel written in the form of diary entries, letters and transcripts of recordings. O’Connor weaves lots of allusions to Dracula into the plot and shows how Stoker could possibly have drawn on his own experiences to help write his most famous novel.

9. Geoffrey Chaucer and John GowerA Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger
We’ve all heard of Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales, but his friend, the poet John Gower, is much less well-known. The two of them team up to solve some intriguing mysteries in A Burnable Book and its sequel The Invention of Fire.

10. Thomas MannThe Magician by Colm Tóibín
I don’t have much to say about this one as I’m only a few chapters into it, but I’m already learning a lot about the life of Thomas Mann. This is one of the shortlisted titles for this year’s Walter Scott Prize and is maybe not a book I would have chosen to read otherwise.


Have you read any of these? Which other novels featuring famous authors can you recommend?