Top Ten Tuesday: Characters who share my name

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl, is a ‘Character Freebie’ (any topic of our choice that deals with book characters).

I thought it might be fun to list some characters who have the same name as me (Helen). I wondered whether I would be able to think of ten, but it turned out to be easier than I expected – in fact, I could have included more!

1. Helen Burns – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

The saintly Helen Burns was Jane’s best friend at Lowood School and although her role in the novel is short and tragic, she has a lasting influence on Jane’s life.

2. Helen Irvine – Fair Helen by Andrew Greig

Helen of Kirkconnel Lea was the heroine of a famous ballad and her story is told in this beautifully written historical fiction novel.

3. Helen of Mar – The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter

The daughter of the Earl of Mar, Lady Helen falls in love with Scottish hero William Wallace in Jane Porter’s 1809 novel.

4. Helen Franklin – Melmoth by Sarah Perry

This secretive Helen becomes fascinated by the story of Melmoth the Witness and discovers that the legend holds a personal significance.

5. Helen Schlegel – Howards End by E.M. Forster

The younger and more impulsive and passionate of the two Schlegel sisters in Forster’s classic novel.

6. Helen of Troy – For the Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser

I’m sure this famous Helen needs no introduction!

7. Helen Fong – China Dolls by Lisa See

One of three young women who become friends after meeting at an audition for dancers at a San Francisco nightclub in 1938.

8. DCI Helen Rowley – Sacrifice and the Lacey Flint series by Sharon Bolton

A recurring, though minor, character throughout Bolton’s Lacey Flint series (as Dana Tulloch’s partner) and also has a bigger role to play in the standalone novel Sacrifice.

9. Helen Giniver – The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

This Helen is one of several characters whose lives and relationships are explored in Sarah Waters’ World War II novel.

10. Helen Huntingdon – The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

A Brontë character started my list so another Brontë character will finish it! Written in diary format, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall describes Helen Huntingdon’s marriage to an abusive, drunken husband.


Can you think of any other literary Helens? Are there any fictional characters who share your own name?

Top Ten Tuesday: Special books from my childhood

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl, asks for our top ten childhood favourites.

There were many, many books that I loved as a child, so this is by no means a definitive top ten and if I did this again next week it could be a different list entirely. For now, though, here are ten books – in no particular order – that bring back special memories.


1. Watership Down by Richard Adams

I was about ten years old when I first read this book and it immediately became a favourite. I have re-read it many times since – the last time was in 2010 and I still loved it as much as ever. It’s beautifully written and certainly doesn’t deserve to be dismissed as just ‘a book about talking rabbits’; it’s about so much more than that and has a lot to offer an adult reader as well as a child.


2. Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat by Ursula Moray Williams

I think I was probably about seven years old when I fell in love with Gobbolino, a little cat who is rejected by his mistress, a witch, because he has blue eyes and a white paw. Dreaming of being an ordinary kitchen cat, Gobbolino sets out in search of a new owner, but finds that nobody wants to give a home to a witch’s cat. This book was published in 1942, a few years after Williams’ more famous children’s book The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse. I loved the little wooden horse too, but his adventures never resonated with me as much as Gobbolino’s!


3. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

I loved this book as a child, despite it being so sad and despite the themes of animal cruelty and suffering making me cry every time I used to read it. I had (and still have, somewhere) a gorgeous hardback edition with colour illustrations and it’s the book itself that I remember as much as the story. The image above doesn’t really do it justice!


4. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I had a lovely hardback edition of The Secret Garden too, although I’m not sure what happened to it (it was not the one pictured above). It’s been a very long time since I last read this book but I still remember the excitement when Mary discovers the door to the locked garden at Misselthwaite Manor. I’ll have to put it on my list for a re-read in the near future, if I can find my copy.


5. Ballet for Drina by Jean Estoril

I loved books about ballet as a child, and nearly included Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes on this list, but I think I preferred the Drina series by Jean Estoril (a pseudonym of Mabel Esther Allan). The series was published in the 1950s and 60s and consisted of eleven books following the dancing career of Drina Adams. Some of the later books were stronger and more interesting, but the first, Ballet for Drina, is the one I remember most clearly.


6. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I can’t remember how old I was when I first read Little Women, but my first copy of it was an abridged version for younger children with the cover shown above. It was part of a series of classics and I also had a few of the others including Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels and Kidnapped. I didn’t like any of them as much as Little Women! My grandmother later gave me her own old copy which contained both Little Women and Good Wives and I still have that book on my shelf.


7. A Visit to Folly Castle by Nina Beachcroft

A more obscure one next. I read this several times as a child and loved it, but had forgotten both the title and the author’s name so spent hours a few months ago googling everything I could remember about the plot to try to identify it! It was a fantasy novel about a girl called Emma who finds a message in a bottle that leads her to the home of Cassandra, a lonely girl who is desperate for a friend. As Emma begins to get to know Cassandra, she discovers that there is something not quite human about her new friend’s family. Does anyone else remember this one?


8. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

It seems that a lot of my childhood favourites involved animals! I loved this classic novel about the friendship between Wilbur the pig, Charlotte the spider and a little girl called Fern. I used to like the film too (the animated one from 1973, not the more recent live-action one).


9. The Valley of Adventure by Enid Blyton

I could have included almost any Enid Blyton book here, as I read and loved so many of them. Her Malory Towers and St Clare’s school stories and The Five Find-Outers mystery series were particular favourites, but if I had to pick just one of her books it would be The Valley of Adventure. In this book, a group of children find themselves stranded in a lonely Austrian valley surrounded by mountains and waterfalls, trying to hide from a gang of criminals who are searching for hidden treasure.


10. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

I was torn between several books for the final place on my list, but I finally decided on L.M. Montgomery’s classic Anne of Green Gables. I did read some of the other titles in the Anne series as well, but was less interested in the later ones. The first book was my favourite because I loved watching the development of Anne’s relationships with Matthew and Marilla.


Have you read any of these? Which books would be on your list?

Top Ten Tuesday: Lines from Lymond

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is:

Inspirational/Thought-Provoking Book Quotes

There are so many quotes I find thought-provoking or inspirational from various books that I really didn’t know where to begin, so I decided to narrow things down slightly by choosing ten from my favourite series, The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett. I say ‘slightly’ because all six of these books are worth quoting in full, in my opinion! Anyway, here is a selection…


1. “You cannot love any one person adequately until you have made friends with the rest of the human race also. Adult love demands qualities which cannot be learned living in a vacuum of resentment.”


2. “I despised men who accepted their fate. I shaped mine twenty times and had it broken twenty times in my hands.”
The Game of Kings


3. “Lack of genius never held anyone back,” said Lymond. “Only time wasted on resentment and daydreaming can do that.”
Queens’ Play


4. “Man is a being of varied, manifold and inconstant nature. And woman, by God, is a match for him.”
The Disorderly Knights


5. “I don’t like this war. I don’t like the cold-blooded scheming at the beginning and the carnage at the end and the grumbling and the jealousies and the pettishness in the middle. I hate the lack of gallantry and grace; the self-seeking; the destruction of valuable people and things. I believe in danger and endeavour as a form of tempering but I reject it if this is the only shape it can take.”
The Game of Kings


6. “Man is not intellect only,” Guthrie said. “Not until you reject all the claims of your body. Not until you have stamped out, little by little, all that is left of your soul.”
The Ringed Castle


7. “Remember, some live all their lives without discovering this truth; that the noblest and most terrible power we possess is the power we have, each of us, over the chance-met, the stranger, the passer-by outside your life and your kin. Speak, she said, as you would write: as if your words were letters of lead, graven there for all time, for which you must take the consequences. And take the consequences.”
Queens’ Play


8. “The more modest your expectations, the less often you will court disappointment.”


9. “I ask for no apology,” said Míkál. “I ask nothing but kindness.”
“I have learned,” said Lymond, “that kindness without love is no kindness.”
Pawn in Frankincense


10. “Today,” said Lymond, “if you must know, I don’t like living at all. But that’s just immaturity boggling at the sad face of failure. Tomorrow I’ll be bright as a bedbug again.”
The Disorderly Knights


What are your favourite lines from your favourite books?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten recent additions to my TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s perfect for those of us who have both a love of books and a love of lists! This week’s topic is…

The Ten Most Recent Additions to My To-Read List


In no particular order, here are ten books I’ve acquired recently:

1. Bats in the Belfry by E.C.R. Lorac – All of the Lorac novels published as British Library Crime Classics sound intriguing, so I’m looking forward to trying this one.

2. The Binding by Bridget Collins – I’m reading this now. I’m a few chapters into it and although it sounded fascinating, I’m not sure that it’s really my sort of thing.

3. The Afterlife of King James IV by Keith J Coleman – This non-fiction book appealed to me when I saw it on NetGalley. I hope it’s good!

4. The Horseman by Tim Pears – This is the first in a trilogy, so if I enjoy it I’ll be looking for the other two.

5. A King Under Siege by Mercedes Rochelle – I’ve received a review copy of this new novel about Richard II.

6. These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer – I’m gradually building up my Georgette Heyer collection and this is one I’ve been particularly looking forward to reading.

7. Eleanor the Queen by Norah Lofts – I’ve been interested in trying something by Norah Lofts for a long time and recently came across a copy of this book about Eleanor of Aquitaine.

8. Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves by Rachel Malik – I really need to make some progress with my Reading the Walter Scott Prize project and this book was on last year’s shortlist for the prize.

9. The Reckoning by Edith Wharton – Part of the Penguin Little Black Classics series, this book contains two short stories by Edith Wharton.

10. Casting Off by Elizabeth Jane Howard – This is the fourth book in the Cazalet Chronicles and I still have the third to read before I can start this one.


Have you read any of these? What have you added to your TBR recently?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I meant to read in 2018 but didn’t get to

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s perfect for those of us who have both a love of books and a love of lists! This week’s topic is:

Books I Meant to Read In 2018 but Didn’t Get To


These four books were on my Autumn 2018 TBR but I didn’t have time to read them:

1. The Green Gauntlet by RF Delderfield
2. Transcription by Kate Atkinson
3. A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
4. Confusion by Elizabeth Jane Howard

And here are two unread books from my Spring 2018 TBR list:

5. Munich by Robert Harris
6. Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

A book that I didn’t get to from my 2018 20 Books of Summer list:

7. The Wardrobe Mistress by Patrick McGrath

And a few that I’d planned to read for last year’s R.I.P. challenge:

8. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
9. A Gathering of Ghosts by Karen Maitland
10. The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude


You can expect to see me reading some, if not all, of these books in 2019 instead.

Have you read any of them? Are there any that I really need to read as soon as possible?

Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-me authors I read in 2018

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) gives us a chance to look back at our 2018 reading and pick out ten authors we read for the first time last year. I have chosen to focus on authors I enjoyed and whose work I’m planning to read more of in the future.


1. Dorothy Whipple

I had been curious about Dorothy Whipple for a long time, knowing that she is one of the most popular authors published by Persephone. After reading Someone at a Distance, I understand why and will definitely be reading more of her books.

2. Graham Swift

I hadn’t thought Graham Swift would be my sort of author, but I enjoyed his short novel Mothering Sunday enough to want to read more.

3. Monica Dickens

The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens won a place on my favourite books of 2018 list. I want to investigate her other books now, probably starting with Mariana.

4. E.M. Delafield

The Diary of a Provincial Lady proved to be a funny, witty, entertaining read – and a good place to start with E.M. Delafield. I’m hoping to meet the Provincial Lady again in 2019.

5. Tim Leach

Smile of the Wolf, a beautifully written novel set in 10th century Iceland, was my first Tim Leach book. I’m looking forward to reading his previous two, The Last King of Lydia and The King and the Slave.

6. Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor was an author I’d been meaning to try for years and I finally got round to reading A Game of Hide and Seek in 2018. I’m sure I’ll be reading more of her books soon.

7. Pat Barker

I didn’t love The Silence of the Girls as much as I’d hoped to, but I was pleased to have the opportunity to try a Pat Barker book at last.

8. Kate O’Brien

That Lady, a historical novel set in 16th century Spain, was chosen for me by one of last year’s Classics Club Spins. Kate O’Brien’s other books sound very different, but I’m interested in trying another one.

9. Elizabeth Jenkins

Harriet was a dark and disturbing novel but I loved it. Now I want to read The Tortoise and the Hare, which seems to be the only other Elizabeth Jenkins book still in print.

10. Richard Hull

The Murder of My Aunt was another of my books of the year from 2018. I have recently received a review copy of one of his other crime novels, And Death Came Too, so I’m hoping that will be another good one.


Have you read anything by any of these authors? Which new-to-you authors did you discover in 2018?

Top Ten Tuesday: Friends and family

The topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl is:

Platonic Relationships In Books (friendships, parent/child, siblings, family, etc.)

Romantic relationships in books usually get most of the attention, but often the relationships I find the strongest or the most moving are the ones between family and friends. Here are ten of my favourites. I could have included many more!


1. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March (Little Women by Louisa May Alcott)

I wanted to start my list with some fictional sisters and naturally the March girls were the first to come to mind! Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy don’t always get along, but as sisters there’s an unbreakable bond between them. I think part of the appeal is that the four all have such different personalities, so most readers will be able to identify with at least one of them.


2. D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis (The Three Musketeers and sequels by Alexandre Dumas)

All for one and one for all! I had to include this classic tale of friendship on my list. Like the sisters in Little Women, d’Artagnan and his three friends each have very different character traits, which means that most readers will be able to pick a favourite. In the later books in the series, the four of them are leading separate lives of their own, only interacting occasionally, but it’s the relationship between them that makes the first book such a joy to read.


3. Francis and Richard Crawford (The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett)

This wonderful series contains lots of relationships, platonic and otherwise, which are developed over the course of the six novels, but one I find particularly interesting is the one between our hero, Francis Crawford of Lymond, and his brother, Richard. To say that they don’t always see eye to eye would be an understatement and following the ups and downs of their relationship from The Game of Kings to Checkmate was one of my favourite aspects of the series.


4. Claire Fraser and Jenny Murray (the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon)

As with the Lymond Chronicles above, there are many relationships in the Outlander series that I could have featured here, but I have chosen the one between Claire Fraser and her sister-in-law Jenny Murray, one of the most long-standing in the series, being formed in the first book of eight. Their relationship changes a lot throughout the series as Claire travels the world having adventures while Jenny stays at home on the family estate in Scotland; sometimes they are barely speaking, while at others they’re the best of friends.


5. Fitz and Nighteyes (The Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies by Robin Hobb)

I’m currently in the middle of the Tawny Man trilogy, so this relationship came quickly to mind. Nighteyes is a wolf, but in Hobb’s fantasy world the bond he shares with Fitz is far stronger than the bond you would usually expect between a human and an animal. There are several occasions where Fitz owes his life to Nighteyes and vice versa.


6. Bishop Jean Marie Latour and Father Joseph Vaillant (Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather)

The two central characters in Willa Cather’s 1927 novel are French missionaries who are sent into the newly formed diocese of New Mexico in the nineteenth century. They are very different men and I found the depiction of the friendship between the warm, friendly Vaillant and the quiet, reserved Latour very moving.


7. Atticus, Jem and Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)

This 1960 classic is a favourite of many people, including myself, and one of the reasons for that is surely the relationship at the heart of the novel between lawyer Atticus Finch and his children, Jem and Jean Louise (Scout). It’s a relationship based on mutual respect and understanding; Scout and Jem learn a lot of important lessons from their father, but they have a lot to offer him in return.


8. Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin (the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian)

I’m not usually a fan of nautical fiction, but I am now six books into Patrick O’Brian’s seafaring series and looking forward to reading the seventh. I still don’t know my mainsail from my topsail, but the friendship between Royal Navy Captain Jack Aubrey and ship’s surgeon and spy Stephen Maturin is enough for me to keep reading.


9. Arthur Bryant and John May (Bryant and May series by Christopher Fowler)

These two eighty-year-old detectives have the perfect partnership, each bringing a very different approach to crime-solving. May is practical, logical and ready to embrace modern technology, while the eccentric Bryant prefers to rely on clairvoyants, witches and his own arcane knowledge. Their differences could explain how they’ve had so much success over the years and have remained such good friends.


10. Flavia, Ophelia and Daphne de Luce (the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley)

I started my list with sisters, so will finish with sisters. The relationship between twelve-year-old Flavia and her two older sisters is one that has frustrated me since the beginning of the series. Why do they dislike each other so much? Why are Feely and Daffy so cruel to Flavia? Nine books into the series, there are finally some signs that their relationship is starting to improve, but it has taken a long time!


Have you read any of these? What are your favourite platonic relationships in fiction?