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!

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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.

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

Top Ten Tuesday: One-word reviews

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is “One-Word Reviews for the Last Ten Books I Read”.

The ten books I’m listing below are not technically the last ten I read, but they are ten that I haven’t yet reviewed on my blog. Full reviews for most of these should appear over the next few weeks, but for now I have chosen one word to represent each book:

1. Infuriating
The Trial of Lotta Rae by Siobhan MacGowan

2. Sadness
The Night Ship by Jess Kidd

3. Adventure
Winchelsea by Alex Preston

4. Dickensian
The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudesley by Sean Lusk

5. Immersive
The Fugitive Colours by Nancy Bilyeau

6. Surprises
The Vanished Days by Susanna Kearsley

7. Freedom
Privilege by Guinevere Glasfurd

8. Secrets
In Place of Fear by Catriona McPherson

9. Complex
All the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay

10. Insightful
The Rebecca Notebook: and Other Memories by Daphne du Maurier

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Are you interested in reading any of these? Which would you like to know more about?

Top Ten Tuesday: Incoming Books

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is a ‘freebie’, meaning we can choose our own topic.

It’s been a few months since I highlighted any of my new acquisitions, so I’m listing below ten books that have recently been added to my TBR.

1. The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn – I loved my first Kate Quinn novel, The Rose Code. Her new book, The Diamond Eye, is out now and I’m hoping to read it very soon.

2. All the Seas of the World by Guy Gavriel Kay – This is set in the same world as Kay’s previous two novels, Children of Earth and Sky and A Brightness Long Ago, both of which I’ve read and enjoyed, so I was pleased to receive a review copy from NetGalley.

3. The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer – I’ve just started reading this in preparation for the upcoming 1954 Club hosted by Karen and Simon. There’s nearly always a Heyer book to read, whichever year is chosen (and an Agatha Christie as well).

4. The House of the Deer by DE Stevenson – I receive the daily Lume Books newsletter which offers a selection of their titles free or at reduced prices. This DE Stevenson novel was on offer a few weeks ago, but it looks like I’ll need to read Gerald and Elizabeth first.

5. Death on Gokumon Island by Seishi Yokomizo – I’ve enjoyed two of the previous books in the Kosuke Kindaichi mystery series and this one, said to be inspired by And Then There Were None, is the latest to be translated into English.

6. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe – I signed up to read this via Pigeonhole in fifteen daily instalments. I’ve had mixed experiences with 18th century literature in the past, but will see how I get on with this one!

7. Yes, Giorgio by Anne Piper – I’ve never heard of this 1961 novel, but it was another special offer from Lume Books. It’s described as a ‘classic comic romance’ and was made into a film starring Pavarotti.

8. In Place of Fear by Catriona McPherson – I’ve been interested in trying Catriona McPherson’s books for a while, as I keep seeing them on other blogs I follow. This is her new book, set in 1940s Edinburgh, and I hope it will be a good one to start with.

9. Winchelsea by Alex Preston – This ‘adventure novel for adults’, about smugglers in the 1740s, sounds as though it could be my sort of book. We’ll soon find out!

10. A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting by Sophie Irwin – I’m not at all sure whether I’ll like this one, but it was a ‘Read Now’ title on NetGalley last week and is getting mainly good reviews, so I thought I’d give it a try.

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Have you read any of these? Are you tempted by them? Which new books have been added to your TBR recently?

Top Ten Tuesday: Classics with names in the titles

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) is “Books with Names/Character Names in the Titles”.

I have decided to focus on classic novels and have listed five female characters and five male – interestingly, I had much more choice when it came to the women! As usual with my Top Ten Tuesday posts, I have tried to stick to books that I’ve read and reviewed on my blog.

1. Ann Veronica by HG Wells – This novel about a young woman’s struggle for independence and her involvement with the suffrage movement isn’t something you would normally associate with science fiction author HG Wells, but I thought it was an interesting read.

2. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier – Du Maurier liked using names in her titles! As well as the most obvious choice, Rebecca, there’s also Julius, Mary Anne – and this one, My Cousin Rachel, a dark and atmospheric novel which is one of my personal favourites by du Maurier.

3. Lorna Doone by RD Blackmore – Set in 17th century England, I loved this novel about a man who falls in love with a woman from a clan of violent outlaws. Although Lorna is the title character, I actually found some of the minor characters more interesting, and I could probably say the same about a few of the other books on this list too.

4. Sylvia’s Lovers by Elizabeth Gaskell – I’ve read several of Gaskell’s novels and this is one that I particularly liked. Set on the North Yorkshire coast during the Napoleonic Wars it’s a beautifully written novel but I agree with Gaskell when she said it’s “the saddest story I ever wrote”.

5. Shirley by Charlotte Brontë – I’ve chosen to highlight this one rather than Charlotte’s more popular Jane Eyre. Although it’s not one of the strongest novels by the Brontë sisters, I think it deserves to be more widely read. It’s an interesting fact that Shirley was seen as a male name rather than a female one until the publication of this book.

6. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad – I thought this was a fascinating book, but also a difficult one to read and understand because of the structure and the complex, morally ambiguous title character. I can’t really say that I enjoyed it, but I was pleased to at least make it to the end.

7. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – Another author who used a lot of names in titles! I haven’t read all of them, but those I have read and could have chosen from include Oliver Twist, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Dombey and Son. I decided on this one because it’s a book I particularly enjoyed, with a selection of fascinating characters – apart from the very annoying Dora Spenlow!

8. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy – If Sylvia’s Lovers is sad, this book is heartbreaking. It follows the story of a young man from a humble background whose attempts to gain an education and live with the woman he loves leads to tragedy. I love Hardy but can see why he doesn’t appeal to everyone!

9. Uncle Silas by Sheridan Le Fanu – This Victorian classic has everything you could wish for in a Gothic novel and after a slow start, I loved it. A good choice for a Halloween reading list or to curl up with on a dark winter’s night.

10. Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope – Phineas Finn is a young Irish politician who appears in Trollope’s Palliser series. His name actually features in two of the books from this series – this one and Phineas Redux, both of which I enjoyed.

Have you read any of these? Which other classics can you think of with character’s names in the title?

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I discovered in 2021

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) gives us a chance to look back at our 2021 reading and pick out ten authors we read for the first time last year. I have listed below a mixture of new-to-me authors I loved and others I’m still not sure about.

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1. Kate Quinn – I read The Rose Code in 2021 and loved it; in fact it was one of my books of the year. I want to read her new one, The Diamond Eye, which is being published in March, but she also has plenty of earlier novels for me to explore.

2. Leïla Slimani – I chose to read The Country of Others because I thought it would be interesting to read a book set in 1940s Morocco written by a French-Moroccan author. I did find it interesting, but it was also very bleak and depressing. I’m not sure whether I’ll try more of Slimani’s books.

3. Jennifer Saint – I really enjoyed Ariadne and am looking forward to starting my review copy of Jennifer Saint’s new book, Elektra, in which she tells the stories of three more women from Greek mythology.

4. Angela ThirkellHigh Rising had been on my Classics Club list for years and I eventually picked it up last summer. I don’t think Thirkell is going to become a favourite author, but I found a lot to like in this book and will try to read the second one in the series soon.

5. Gill Hornby – I read Miss Austen just before Christmas and really enjoyed it. Her earlier novels don’t appeal to me, but her next one, due out this year, is also Austen-inspired so I’m definitely interested in reading it.

6. Joan Aiken – I had been meaning to try Joan Aiken’s books for years and finally got round to it in 2021 with her 1976 Gothic novel Castle Barebane. I’m hoping to read more of her work soon.

7. Tim Pears – I read The Horseman, the first in Tim Pears’ West Country Trilogy, in 2021 and hoped that I would love it and want to read the rest of the trilogy immediately. However, although I thought it was beautifully written I found it very slow and am unsure whether to continue.

8. Rumer GoddenBlack Narcissus was one of my final reads of 2021. Although I didn’t love it as much as I’d hoped to, I found it interesting and atmospheric and I’m planning to read more by Rumer Godden.

9. Tom Hindle – I loved Tom Hindle’s debut novel, A Fatal Crossing, which I reviewed last week but read towards the end of 2021, hence its inclusion on this list. I can’t wait to see what he writes next.

10. John Bude – I read The Sussex Downs Murder last year and enjoyed it, although I found the mystery too easy to solve. British Library Crime Classics have published a lot of Bude’s other crime novels, so I will probably try another one.

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

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books to read if you love the Brontës

This week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl) is “Books to Read If You Love/Loved X (X can be a genre, specific book, author, movie/TV show, etc)”.

I have chosen to list ten books with connections to the Brontë family – a mixture of non-fiction, historical fiction, classics and retellings! These are all books that I have read and reviewed on my blog.

1. The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan – My favourite of the ten books listed here, this is a beautifully written fictional biography of Charlotte, Emily and Anne with strong characterisation bringing all three sisters to life.

2. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – This is probably one of the best-known Brontë-inspired novels, giving a voice to Mr Rochester’s wife Bertha, and has become a modern classic in its own right.

3. Sanctuary by Robert Edric – A fictional account of the life of Branwell Brontë, a young man who starts out with so much potential only to find himself living in the shadow of his sisters.

4. Ill Will by Michael Stewart – In the middle of Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff disappears for three years. This novel imagines what may have happened to him during that time. An interesting idea, but the anachronistic language ruined this book for me!

5. The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell – A contemporary novel about a young American woman who is the last living descendant of the Brontë family and finds herself searching for the lost Brontë literary estate.

6. Dark Quartet by Lynne Reid Banks – Another fictional biography of Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell, published in the 1970s. There’s a sequel covering the final years of Charlotte’s life, but I haven’t read that one yet.

7. Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye – Part historical crime/part Jane Eyre retelling, this is the story of Jane Steele, a murderer whose life seems to mirror that of the heroine of her favourite Brontë novel. I loved all the Jane Eyre parallels, but found the crime aspect less successful.

8. Nelly Dean by Alison Case – A retelling of Wuthering Heights with a focus on the life of the housekeeper Nelly Dean. I didn’t enjoy this as much as I’d hoped; I liked Nelly, but her story wasn’t as interesting as Cathy and Heathcliff’s – which is why Emily Brontë wrote that book and not this one!

9. The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë by Daphne du Maurier – Another book about Branwell Brontë, but a non-fiction one this time – and written by another of my favourite authors! Several of du Maurier’s novels also show a strong Brontë influence.

10. Mr Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker – This version of Jane Eyre is written from the perspective of Mr Rochester. I enjoyed the earlier sections of the novel that imagine Rochester’s childhood and time in Jamaica, but the final part – retelling the familiar events of Jane Eyre – didn’t work as well.

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What do you think? Have you read any of these? What other books have you read that are about or inspired by the Brontës?