Top Ten Tuesdays: New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

The topic this week is New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021. I read quite a lot of new-to-me authors last year. These are just 10 of them.

  • The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood – a ‘cosy’ murder mystery, easy to read and fast paced.
  • Coming Up for Air* by Sarah Leipciger – a mix of fact and fiction, based in truth, which emphasises the importance of the air we breathe and the desire to live.
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway – a simple story on the surface, told in a few pages, yet full of depth.
  • The Queen’s Spy by Clare Marchant – historical fiction with a dual timeline set in 1584 and 2021.
  • The Library of the Dead by T L Huchu – a fantasy novel, set in a future or alternative Edinburgh, with a wealth of dark secrets in its underground.
  • Girl in the Walls by A J Gnuse – a ‘gothic’ tale influenced by the literary tradition of the Southern Gothic novel.
  • Inland by Téa Obreht – a novel about life in the American West during the mid-to-late 19th century.
  • Prophecy by S J Parris – historical fiction about Giordano Bruno, a 16th century heretic philosopher and spy.
  • The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles – historical fiction, based on the true Second World War story of the librarians at the American Library in Paris. 
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock* by Joan Lindsay – the picnic, which begins innocently and happily, ends in explicable terror, and some of the party never returned. What happened to them remains a mystery.

*The two books I loved the most are Picnic at Hanging Rock and Coming Up for Air, both are 5* books for me.

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: Out of Africa by Karen Blixen

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

I’m currently reading two long books, one nonfiction and the other fiction, so it will be some time before I can read another book. But I’m thinking of read Out of Africa by Karen Blixen next.

The Book Begins:

I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills. The Equator runs across these highlands, a hundred miles to the north, and the farm lay at an altitude of over six thousand feet. In the day-time you felt you had got high up, near to the sun, but the early mornings and evenings were limpid and restful, and the nights were cold.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

‘After Kamante had become a Christian he was no longer afraid to touch a dead body.

Summary:

‘I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills . . . Up in this high air you breathed easily . . . you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be.’

From the moment Karen Blixen arrived in Kenya in 1914 to manage a coffee plantation, her heart belonged to Africa. Drawn to the intense colours and ravishing landscapes, Blixen spent her happiest years on the farm, and her experiences and friendships with the people around her are vividly recalled in these memoirs.

Out of Africa is the story of a remarkable and unconventional woman, and of a way of life that has vanished for ever.  (Goodreads)

~~~

What have you been reading lately?

The Queen’s Lady by Joanna Hickson

Harper Collins|20 January 2022|451 pages|e-book via NetGalley|Review copy|4*

Publishers’ Description:

As lady-in-waiting and confidante to Queen Elizabeth, wife of Henry VII, Joan understands royal patronage is vital if she and her husband, Sir Richard, are to thrive in the volatile atmosphere of court life.

But Tudor England is in mourning following the death of the Prince of Wales, and within a year, the queen herself. With Prince Henry now heir to the throne, the court murmurs with the sound of conspiracy. Is the entire Tudor project now at stake or can young Henry secure the dynasty?

Drawn into the heart of the crisis, Joan’s own life is in turmoil, and her future far from secure. She faces a stark choice – be true to her heart and risk everything, or play the dutiful servant and watch her dreams wither and die. For Joan, and for Henry’s Kingdom, everything is at stake…

My thoughts:

I enjoyed reading Joanne Hickson’s first book in her Queens of the Tower series, The Lady of the Ravens (my review), so I was keen to read the sequel, The Queen’s Lady, continuing the story of Joan Vaux, Lady Guildford. She was a lady in waiting to Queen Elizabeth, the wife of Henry VII and had became a good friend and confidante of Elizabeth. Her son Henry, known as Hal, had also became a good friend to the young Prince Henry.

It begins one evening at the Tower of London in April 1502. There’s strange atmosphere, as the ravens sit hunched in silence in the trees around the White Tower, Joan thought, as if awaiting some sad event, sensing death. One of the things I had particularly enjoyed in The Lady of the Ravens was Joan’s fascination for and care of the ravens of the Tower of London firmly believing in the legend that should the ravens leave the Tower for good then the crown would fall and ruin would return to the nation.

1502 had begun with pageantry and the New Year celebrations for the wedding of Prince Arthur, the heir to the throne, and Katharine of Aragon. It looks as if the ravens had indeed sensed death because in April he became seriously ill and died. It was Joan who had to break the news to Elizabeth and help console her in her grief. His death left Prince Henry as the heir to the throne.

In addition King Henry’s agents had uncovered a new Yorkist plot against the throne. Joan’s husband, Sir Richard Guildford is a Privy Councillor and loyal to Henry, but Henry is persuaded that he could be guilty of treason and he is imprisoned. Joan’s life is suddenly turned upside down. What happens next is fascinating to read covering Joan’s involvement in both national affairs and in her personal life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is beautifully written, grounded in its historical context, full of colour and life. At the end of the book there’s a Glossary of words and terms that are not commonly in use today, which I wish I’d realised was there earlier. Intriguingly, Joanna Hickson promises in her Author’s Note that she has ‘more fascinating fifteenth century lives in sight’. I’m looking forward to see what she writes next.

The Author:

Joanna Hickson became fascinated with history when she studied Shakespeare’s history plays at school. However, having taken a degree in Politics and English she took up a career in broadcast journalism with the BBC, presenting and producing news, current affairs and arts programmes on both television and radio. Now she writes full time.

My thanks to the publishers for my review copy via NetGalley.

Top Ten Tuesdays: Books I bought in 2021 that I Didn’t Get Round To Reading

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

The topic this week is 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To but I decided to change it a bit and list ten of the books I bought in 2021 that I didn’t get round to reading. The only reason I haven’t read them yet is that I’ve been reading other books … I can only read one book at a time, regardless of how many I have on the go at once.

They are a mix of fiction and nonfiction:

  1. The Radium Girls: They paid with their lives. Their final fight was for justice by.Kate Moore
  2. Everyone Versus Racism: A Letter to My Children by Patrick Hutchinson
  3. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  4. Winds of Change: Britain in the Early Sixties by Peter Hennessy
  5. Philip: The Final Portrait by Gyles Brandreth
  6. The Hanging Tree: Book 6 in Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch
  7. Plenty: A Memoir of Food and Family by Hannah Howard
  8. Mrs England by Stacey Halls
  9. Fall and Rise: The Story of 9/11 by Mitchell Zuckoff
  10. Written In Bone: hidden stories in what we leave behind by Sue Black

Which one to read first? I can’t decide.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

3*

I bought a paperback copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four (its original title) in 2008, but have only just read it. It is George Orwell’s last novel, written in 1948 and presents his vision of a dystopian society, a totalitarian state complete with mass surveillance, where individuality is brutally suppressed.

Synopsis from the back cover:

In Orwell’s frightening vision of the future, society is under the control of Big Brother. Every aspect of life is closely monitored, whilst any hint of unorthodoxy is ruthlessly suppressed by the Thought Police. The Ministry of Truth, where Winston Smith works, is the Party’s Propaganda Machine. A secret rebel, Winston yearns for liberty and finds new hope when he falls in love with the earthy, uncomplicated Julia. Instead he discovers a nightmare world of terror where the price of freedom is betrayal.

Winston Smith’s attempt to find liberty and individuality plunges him into a truly horrific version of hell. The world is ravaged by war with three superstates, Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia battling for total control. Winston lives in Airstrip One (Britain) in Oceania. His job is to rewrite history and destroy the old records, in accordance with the current circumstances. He secretly opposes the Party’s rule, led by the mysterious Big Brother, and dreams of rebellion. But faced with the Thought Police, the Hate Week sessions the surveillance through the television screens, cameras and hidden microphones monitoring his every move and thought, he realises it is a futile hope and that he is likely to be caught.

This really is the most depressing book and in places it is boring, especially in the middle section of the book devoted to Goldstein’s book. Goldstein, the leader of the Opposition Party to Big Brother, is always the subject of hatred at the Hate Week sessions. There are also passages that I could hardly bear to read – torture scenes that I did not want to visualise – it is a harrowing book. But it was interesting to see where the terms, Big Brother is Watching You, Room 101 (you do not want to be sent there!) Thought Police, Newspeak, Doublethink, holding two contradictory thoughts at the same time, and Thoughtcrime originated.

Nineteen Eighty -Four has received very many accolades and 94% of the people who have rated it on Goodreads ‘liked’ it – 79% giving it 5 or 4 stars .This is possibly the least enjoyable book I’ve read, horrific in content, lacking in convincing characterisation, and has a poor plot. It is depressing and dreary in the extreme, but I can see why it can be considered a brilliant book in its depiction of a dystopian society. It is seriously thought provoking!

‘George Orwell’ was the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair (25 June 1903 – 21 January 1950). He ‘was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.’ (Goodreads)

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish and now hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. For the rules see her blog.

The topic this week is Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection. Mine are mainly e-books.

The Birds And Other Stories (Virago Modern Classics Book 10) by Daphne Du Maurier. I bought this because I enjoy her books and wanted to see if Hitchcock’s film version of The Birds was anything like du Maurier’s short story.

The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo – This extraordinary historical novel, set in Medieval Paris under the twin towers of its greatest structure and supreme symbol, the cathedral of Notre-Dame, is the haunting drama of Quasimodo, the hunchback; Esmeralda, the gypsy dancer; and Claude Frollo, the priest tortured by the specter of his own damnation.

Rain: Four Walks in English Weather by Melissa Harrison – she explores our relationship with the weather as she follows the course of four rain showers, in four seasons, across Wicken Fen, Shropshire, the Darent Valley and Dartmoor, and reveals how rain is not just an essential element of the world around us, but a key part of our own identity too.

The Three Theban Plays: Antigone; Oedipus the King; Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles, translated by Robert Fagles – the story of the ill fated Theban royal family. Oedipus, a mythical king, accidentally fulfilled a prophecy that he would end up killing his father and marrying his mother, bringing disaster to his city and family. I have a vague memory that I read Oedipus the King at school – but maybe I didn’t. I definitely haven’t read the other two.

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne – I bought this after watching the first episode of the TV adaptation with David Tenant as Phileas Fogg, who bet his friends in the Reform Club that he can travel across the globe in just eighty days.

How to Catch a Mole: and Find Yourself in Nature by Marc Hamer – A calming, life-affirming book about the British countryside, the cycle of nature, solitude and contentment, by a brilliant new nature writer who spent time homeless as a young man, sleeping in the hedgerows he now knows so well. I’m currently reading this and enjoying it very much.

The Dark Remains by Ian Rankin, William McIlvanney – In this scorching crime prequel, New York Times best-selling author Ian Rankin and Scottish crime-writing legend William McIlvanney join forces for the first ever case of D.I. Laidlaw, Glasgow’s original gritty detective.

Elizabeth Macarthur: A Life at the Edge of the World by Michelle Scott Tucker, a biography. After reading Kate Grenville’s novel, A Room Made of Leaves I wanted to know more about the Macarthurs who settled in Australia in the late 1700s.

The Raven Spell: A Novel (A Conspiracy of Magic Book 1) by Luanne G. Smith – In Victorian England a witch and a detective are on the hunt for a serial killer in an enthralling novel of magic and murder. It’s my Amazon First Reads choice for January.

The Night Hawks: Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries 13 (The Dr Ruth Galloway Mysteries) by Elly Griffiths. I still have books 10 – 12 to read before I can read this one! The Night Hawks, a group of metal detectorists, are searching for buried treasure when they find a body on the beach in North Norfolk. At first Nelson thinks that the dead man might be an asylum seeker but he turns out to be a local boy, Jem Taylor, recently released from prison. Ruth is more interested in the treasure, a hoard of Bronze Age weapons.

Classics Club II

The Classics Club

The Classics Club is a club created to inspire people to read and blog about classic books. There’s no time limit to join. You simply sign up to read and write on your blog about at least 50 classic books in at most five years

This is my second list of books to read for the Classics Club. I’ve been hesitating about making a second list as it has taken me almost 10 years to read through my first list! So I hope this second list won’t take me that long. It doesn’t have to be a fixed list as you can alter it at any time. I’ll be using this list once I’ve finished reading the last book on my first list.

I’ve listed the books in a-z author order. 

  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen – I’m not sure that I’ve read this before, so it may turn out to be a re-read.
  2. Another Part of the Wood by Beryl Bainbridge
  3. Death in the Tunnel by Miles Burton
  4. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  5. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  6. The Mousetrap and Selected Plays by Agatha Christie
  7. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  8. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
  9. The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin
  10.  Buried for Pleasure by Edmund Crispin
  11. The Stars Look Down by A J Cronin
  12. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
  13. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  14. Dickens at Christmas by Charles Dickens
  15. Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
  16. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
  17. The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
  18. The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas
  19. Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford
  20. A Room with a View by E M Forster
  21. The Man of Property by John Galsworthy Forsyte Saga (1)
  22. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  23. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
  24. Daisy Miller by Henry James
  25. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  26. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
  27. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  28. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  29. The Night Manager by John le Carre
  30. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  31. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – read
  32. How Green was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
  33. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D H Lawrence
  34. Friends and Heroes by Olivia Manning
  35. Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
  36. The Birds and other short stories by Daphne du Maurier
  37. I’ll Never Be Young Again by Daphne du Maurier
  38. The Time of Angels by Iris Murdoch
  39. Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault
  40. Waverley by Walter Scott
  41. A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute
  42. On the Beach by Nevil Shute
  43. Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck
  44. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
  45. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope
  46. The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope
  47. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne
  48. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  49. The Invisible Man by H G Wells
  50. Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf

Book Beginnings & The Friday 56: 1984 by George Orwell

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

1984 is one of the books I’m currently reading. It’s one of those books I’ve had for years and never read.

The Book Begins:

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen,

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

‘By 2050 – earlier, probably – all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron – they’ll exist only in Newspwak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of what they used to be.

Summary:

The year 1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell’s prophetic, nightmarish vision in 1949 of the world we were becoming is timelier than ever. 1984 is still the great modern classic of “negative utopia”—a startlingly original and haunting novel that creates an imaginary world that is completely convincing, from the first sentence to the last four words. No one can deny the novel’s hold on the imaginations of whole generations, or the power of its admonitions—a power that seems to grow, not lessen, with the passage of time. (Goodreads)

~~~

What have you been reading lately?

Back to the Classics Challenge 2022

It’s back! This is the 9th year that Karen at Books and Chocolate has hosted the Back to the Classics Challenge and this is the second time I’ll be joining in. Last year I completed 6 of the categories and this year I’m hoping to do more,

See Karen’s sign-up post on Books and Chocolate for more details about the challenge.

There are twelve categories and these are the books I’ve initially chosen for some of the categories – but there are others I could choose, so this list may/probably will change.

  1. A 19th century classic. Any book first published from 1800 to 1899 – David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  2. A 20th century classic. Any book first published from 1900 to 1972. All books must have been published at least 50 years ago; the only exceptions are books which were written by 1972 and posthumously published. Another Part of the Wood by Beryl Bainbridge
  3. A classic by a woman author. Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
  4. A classic in translation.  Any book first published in a language that is not your primary language. You may read it in translation or in its original language, if you prefer. 
  5. A classic by BIPOC author. Any book published by a non-white author. The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas
  6. Mystery/Detective/Crime Classic. It can be fiction or non-fiction (true crime). The Mousetrap by Agatha Christie
  7. A Classic Short Story Collection. Any single volume that contains at least six short stories. The book can have a single author or can be an anthology of multiple authors. The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
  8. A Pre-1800 Classic. Anything written before 1800. Plays and epic poems, such as the Odyssey, are acceptable in this category. 
  9. A Nonfiction Classic. Travel, memoirs, and biographies are great choices for this category. In Cold Blood. by Truman Capote
  10. A Classic That’s Been on Your TBR List the Longest. Find the classic book that’s been hanging around unread the longest, and finally cross it off your list!  
  11. A Classic Set in a Place You’d Like to Visit. Can be real or imaginary — Paris, Tokyo, the moon, Middle Earth, etc. It can be someplace you’ve never been, or someplace you’d like to visit again.
  12. A Wild Card Classic. Any classic you like, any category, as long as it’s at least 50 years old!

Historical Fiction Challenge 2022

Marg at The Intrepid Reader hosts the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. Each month, a new post dedicated to the HF Challenge will be created where you can add the links for the books you have read.

Everyone can participate! If you don’t have a blog you can post a link to your review if it’s posted on Goodreads, Facebook, or Amazon, or you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish.

Any sub-genre of historical fiction is accepted (Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, History/Non-Fiction, etc.)

During the following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels:

20th Century Reader – 2 books
Victorian Reader – 5 books
Renaissance Reader – 10 books
Medieval – 15 books
Ancient History – 25 books
Prehistoric – 50+ books

I love historical fiction so in 2022 I’m hoping to reach the Medieval level, that is read 15 books.