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?

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 books about witches and witchcraft

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is a “Halloween/Creepy Freebie”. I seem to have read a lot of books about witches in the last few years, so I’ve chosen ten of them to list here.


1. Corrag by Susan Fletcher

Also published as Witch Light and The Highland Witch, this is a beautiful, moving story about a young girl accused of witchcraft and the part she played in one of the most tragic moments in Scotland’s history – the Glencoe Massacre of 1692. The writing style is unusual and it took me a while to get used to it, but I’m glad I persevered because this really is a lovely book.


2. Thornyhold by Mary Stewart

Not a scary book at all, but a gentle, comforting one. When Gilly’s cousin Geillis dies, leaving her a cottage in the countryside, Gilly finds that she has also inherited a black cat and a collection of magic spells. Could Geillis have been a witch? As with most of Stewart’s novels, there are some beautiful descriptions of nature, a likeable heroine and a touch of romance.


3. The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

This novel is narrated by Alice Hopkins, a fictional sister of Matthew Hopkins, the self-styled Witchfinder General who was believed to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of women in England during the 17th century. Alice’s story didn’t interest me much, but I found it fascinating to read about the methods Hopkins used to identify witches.


4. The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

Sharon Bolton’s latest novel follows an investigation into the murder of three teenagers in a small Lancashire town near Pendle Hill, a place associated with witchcraft since the Pendle Witch Trials of the 17th century. As Florence Lovelady attempts to solve the crime she discovers a coven of modern day witches operating in the town. Could they be connected with the murders?


5. The Vanishing Witch by Karen Maitland

Set in the 1380s, this novel has everything I’ve come to expect from Karen Maitland: the dark atmosphere, the elements of the supernatural, and the twisting, turning plot. As well as hints of witchcraft, the story also features a ghost – and every chapter begins with a charm or a spell to protect oneself from witches.


6. Circe by Madeline Miller

A mythological witch next! I loved this beautifully written novel by Madeline Miller which fleshes out the character of Circe, the witch from Homer’s Odyssey. I was surprised to see how many different Greek myths Miller incorporates into Circe’s story.


7. Widdershins by Helen Steadman

Set in the 17th century, this novel describes the events leading up to the Newcastle Witch Trials of 1650 which resulted in the largest number of people in England’s history being executed for witchcraft in a single day. With half of the book following the witchfinder responsible for hunting down the so-called witches, and the other half following one of the accused women, we are given both sides of the story. The sequel is coming next year!


8. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

This is the first book in the All Souls Trilogy which follows the adventures of witch Diana Bishop and vampire Matthew Clairmont. I wasn’t at all sure that this would be my sort of book, but I found that I loved the combination of romance, history, adventure and fantasy.


9. The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge

Set during the English Civil War, the white witch of the title is Froniga, a healer and herbalist. Like Thornyhold above, this is a gentle, beautifully written ‘witch’ story, rather than a creepy one. Although there are themes of magic, mystery and mythology, it was the details of 17th century village life and the lovely descriptions of the countryside that I enjoyed the most.


10. The Lost Book of Salem by Katherine Howe

Also published as The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, the final novel on my list follows a 20th century history student as she attempts to track down a spell book belonging to Deliverance Dane, one of the women accused of witchcraft in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.


Have you read any of these – or any other books about witches or witchcraft?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my autumn TBR

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, asks for ten books on our fall/autumn TBR. I’ve already mentioned some of the books I’m hoping to read for the R.I.P. challenge this month and next, so I’ve chosen a different ten to list here.


1. Zennor in Darkness by Helen Dunmore

“Spring, 1917, and war haunts the Cornish coastal village of Zennor: ships are being sunk by U-boats, strangers are treated with suspicion, and newspapers are full of spy stories.

Into this turmoil come D. H Lawrence and his German wife, Frieda hoping to escape the war-fever that grips London. They befriend Clare Coyne, a young artist struggling to console her beloved cousin, John William, who is on leave from the trenches and suffering from shell-shock.

Yet the dark tide of gossip and innuendo means that Zennor is neither a place of recovery nor of escape…”


2. Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins

“When a handsome, unscrupulous fortune hunter approaches Harriet, a young woman of means whom most people would call half-witted, no good can result. Elizabeth Jenkins’s artistry, however, transforms the bare facts of this case from the annals of Victorian England’s Old Bailey into an absolutely spine-chilling exploration of the depths of human depravity.”


3. The Witches of St Petersburg by Imogen Edwards-Jones

“Two Montenegrin princesses, Militza and Stana, are married into the Russian aristocracy of the last Tsar by their father. Initially shunned by society and, in Stana’s case, married to a man she detests, life isn’t easy.

Fascinated by the occult, the sisters soon become close to the Tsarina Alexandra who is willing to try anything to precipitate the birth of the son and heir the country longs for. If she puts her faith in them, Militza and Stana promise they can help the Tsarina produce a boy.

The girls hold seances, experiment with a variety of rituals and bring various men to the Tsarina who they feel have spiritual power. Their closeness to the Empress and power in court is undisputed: until, that is, Grigori Rasputin arrives. Militza and Stana, along with most of female Russian society, are intoxicated, but by bringing Rasputin into their lives, have they taken a fatal step too far?”


4. The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley

“After the death of her father – Pa Salt, an elusive billionaire who adopted his six daughters from around the globe – Tiggy D’Aplièse, trusting her instincts, moves to the remote wilds of Scotland. There she takes a job doing what she loves; caring for animals on the vast and isolated Kinnaird estate, employed by the enigmatic and troubled Laird, Charlie Kinnaird.

Her decision alters her future irrevocably when Chilly, an ancient gipsy who has lived for years on the estate, tells her that not only does she possess a sixth sense, passed down from her ancestors, but it was foretold long ago that he would be the one to send her back home to Granada in Spain …

In the shadow of the magnificent Alhambra, Tiggy discovers her connection to the fabled gypsy community of Sacromonte, who were forced to flee their homes during the civil war, and to ‘La Candela’ the greatest flamenco dancer of her generation. From the Scottish Highlands and Spain, to South America and New York, Tiggy follows the trail back to her own exotic but complex past. And under the watchful eye of a gifted gypsy bruja she begins to embrace her own talent for healing. But when fate takes a hand, Tiggy must decide whether to stay with her new-found family or return to Kinnaird, and Charlie…”


5. The Green Gauntlet by RF Delderfield

“World War II is over. But for Craddock and his family there are new battles to be fought and won. The new property laws enable speculators to reap huge profits from agricultural lands, and Paul’s livelihood is threatened. With the help of his children and children’s children, Paul struggles to preserve the happiness and peace he has built up over the years. In doing so, he comes to discover deeper, richer ties with those around him. Ties which hold a ripe promise for the future…”


6. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

“In the summer of 1862, a group of young artists led by the passionate and talented Edward Radcliffe descends upon Birchwood Manor on the banks of the Upper Thames. Their plan: to spend a secluded summer month in a haze of inspiration and creativity. But by the time their stay is over, one woman has been shot dead while another has disappeared; a priceless heirloom is missing; and Edward Radcliffe’s life is in ruins.

Over one hundred and fifty years later, Elodie Winslow, a young archivist in London, uncovers a leather satchel containing two seemingly unrelated items: a sepia photograph of an arresting-looking woman in Victorian clothing, and an artist’s sketchbook containing the drawing of a twin-gabled house on the bend of a river.

Why does Birchwood Manor feel so familiar to Elodie? And who is the beautiful woman in the photograph? Will she ever give up her secrets?”


7. The Magick of Master Lilly by Tobsha Learner

“In 1641, the country of England stands divided. London has become a wasps’ nest of spies, and under the eyes of the Roundheads those who practice magic are routinely sent to hang.

Living in exile in the Surrey countryside is the Master Astrologer and learned magician William Lilly. Since rumours of occult practice lost him the favour of Parliament, he has not returned to the city. But his talents are well-known, and soon he is called up to London once more, to read the fate of His Majesty the King.

Only Lilly and a circle of learned astrologers – Cunning Folk – know that London is destined to suffer plague and fire before the decade is through, and must summon angel and demon to sway the political powers from the war the country is heading toward. In doing so, Lilly will influence far greater destinies than his own and encounter great danger. But there will be worse to come…”


8. Transcription by Kate Atkinson

“In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathisers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever.

Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.”


9. A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

“If you look hard enough, you can find stories pretty much anywhere. They don’t even have to be your own. Or so would-be writer Maurice Swift decides very early on in his career. A chance encounter in a Berlin hotel with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann gives him an opportunity to ingratiate himself with someone more powerful than him. For Erich is lonely, and he has a story to tell. Whether or not he should do so is another matter entirely.

Once Maurice has made his name, he sets off in pursuit of other people’s stories. He doesn’t care where he finds them – or to whom they belong – as long as they help him rise to the top. Stories will make him famous but they will also make him beg, borrow and steal. They may even make him do worse.”


10. Confusion by Elizabeth Jane Howard

“Confusion is the third novel in Elizabeth Jane Howard’s bestselling Cazalet Chronicles.

London and Sussex, 1942. The privileged English family in turmoil…

The long, dark days of struggle provide the poignant background to the third book of the Cazalet Chronicles. As the war enters its fourth year, chaos has become a way of life.

Both in the still peaceful Sussex countryside, and in air-raid-threatened London, the divided Cazalets begin to find the battle for survival echoing the confusion in their own lives.”


Have you read any of these books? What do you have coming up on your own TBR?

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books I’ve Read In 2018 (So Far)

We’re into the second half of the year now, but this week’s Top Ten Tuesday – hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl – asks us to look back on the first six months of 2018 and list our favourite books of the year so far.

I found it easy enough to pick out ten books from my 2018 reading, although there were a few others I would have included if I hadn’t been limited to ten. Maybe some of them will appear on my final end-of-year list in December, when I don’t have to restrict myself to a certain number! For now, here is my list of ten, not in any particular order:


1. Britannia Mews by Margery Sharp


2. The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby


3. Dear Mrs Bird by AJ Pearce


4. Circe by Madeline Miller


5. The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope


6. Penmarric by Susan Howatch (reread)


7. House of Gold by Natasha Solomons


8. The Feast by Margaret Kennedy


9. The Winds of Heaven by Monica Dickens


10. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton


Have you read any of these? What are the best books you’ve read in the first six months of the year?

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Worlds I’d Never Want To Live In

The topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl is: Bookish Worlds I’d Want to/Never Want to Live In. I decided to focus on the second option and list ten of the most unpleasant or unappealing settings from books previously reviewed on my blog…and here they are:

1. The Republic of Gilead (The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood)

From my review: “In this new dystopian society, women no longer have any of the rights or freedoms they had before; they’re not allowed to work, not allowed to have their own bank accounts, not even allowed to read in case reading leads them into temptation.”

2. The room (Room by Emma Donoghue)

From my review: “The story is narrated by Jack, a five-year-old boy who has spent his whole life living with his mother in a converted shed measuring eleven foot square. His mother had been kidnapped seven years ago and Jack was born in captivity. He has no idea that a world exists outside Room and apart from Ma and Old Nick, the man who is keeping them captive, he has never seen another human being.”

3. Tregannon House, Cornwall (The Asylum by John Harwood)

From my review: “Most of the action takes place within the confines of Tregannon House (the private asylum on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall, in which Georgina becomes trapped) and the atmosphere Harwood creates is wonderfully claustrophobic and eerie. I really sympathised with Georgina’s situation and shared her terror and bewilderment.”

4. Melanie Langdon’s drawing room (The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski)

From my review: “The book conveys a sense of confusion, panic and disorientation and I could really feel Melanie’s helplessness as she lay on the chaise-longue, trapped in Milly’s body, desperately trying to work out who she was and how she could escape.”

5. The Marshalsea Prison (The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson)

From my review: “The prisoners who had some money to spend or who had influential friends, lived on the Master’s Side, which was almost like a complete town in itself, with coffee houses, bars, restaurants and even a barber. They had the freedom to move around and in some cases were even given permission to go out into London during the day. For the poor people on the Common Side, things were much worse. Crammed into tiny cells and suffering from starvation, disease and overcrowding, they died at a rate of up to twelve a day.”

6. Starkfield, Massachusetts (Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton)

From my review: “The most striking thing about this book, for me, was the tense, claustrophobic atmosphere Wharton created, making the reader feel locked within Ethan’s miserable world. The town of Starkfield, Massachusetts is as stark as its name suggests; the descriptions of the snow, the ice and the cold all contribute to the heavy feeling of oppression which hangs over the entire book.”

7. Hill House (The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson)

From my review: “I loved the descriptions of Hill House – it has all the characteristics you would expect a haunted house to have, including a tragic history – but there are very few physical manifestations of ghostly activity. The creepiness of the story comes mainly from the fact that we don’t know how much of the ‘haunting’ is caused by Hill House itself and how much is the product of Eleanor’s disturbed mind.”

8. Lexham Manor at Christmas (Envious Casca by Georgette Heyer)

From my review: “I have rarely read a novel with so many nasty, rude, unpleasant characters and I couldn’t think of anything worse than being a guest at the Herriards’ party, even without a murder taking place! From the obnoxious, sarcastic Stephen and the haughty butler Sturry to the cantankerous, bad-tempered Nathaniel, they were all so annoying I was surprised only one murder was committed.”

9. Green Town, Illinois at carnival time (Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury)

From my review: “Good versus evil is obviously one of the major themes of the novel. A feeling of malice and danger hangs over the carnival from the moment it arrives and the people connected with it are both strange and sinister – particularly the blind Dust Witch who hovers over the boys’ houses in a hot air balloon in one of the creepiest scenes in the book.”

10. The future (The Time Machine by HG Wells)

From my review: “Remembering when this novel was published, Wells’ vision of a future world has been developed from some of the issues which would have seemed relevant at the end of the 19th century, such as widening class divisions, theories of evolution and Darwinism. It’s a bleak and depressing view of the future – and if that really is what we have to look forward to, then imperfect as our current society may be, I’m very glad to be living in 2016!”


Have you taken part in this week’s Top Ten Tuesday? Can you think of some bookish worlds you wouldn’t want to live in?