Top Ten Tuesday: Debut Books I’ve Enjoyed the Most

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 2023 Debut Books I’m Excited About but, although I did try to find which of the new books coming out soon would be debuts I decided that it was too time consuming, so instead I’ve looked back in my blog to find debut novels I’ve read that I enjoyed the most.

Here are ten – in no particular order.

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal, historical fiction set in the 1850s when the Great Exhibition was being constructed and then opened to the public. It tells the story of Iris, the young woman who worked painting dolls in Mrs Salter’s Dolls Emporium, but who dreamed of being an artist. It also tells of her involvement with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of artists first formed in the summer of 1848. They were challenging the art world with their vivid paintings, at once both stylised and naturalistic. The descriptions took me straight into London of the early 1850s with all its sights and smells, its squalor and bustling crowds as people go about their daily lives.

The Second Sight of Zachary Cloudsley by Sean Lusk, a mixture of historical fact and fantasy set in the 18th century, in London and in Constantinople. In 1754, renowned maker of clocks and automata Abel Cloudesley must raise his new-born son Zachary when his wife dies in childbirth. Zachary is intensely curious, ferociously intelligent, unwittingly funny and always honest—perhaps too honest. But when a fateful accident leaves six-year-old Zachary nearly blinded, he is plagued by visions that reveal the hearts and minds of those around him.

Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney. I like complicated plots with believable characters and with twists and turns to keep me glued to the book. This book has all this and more. I was puzzled, stunned and amazed at the cleverness of the plot structure and how I’d had the wool pulled over my eyes. It’s narrated by Amber Reynolds as she lies in hospital in a coma. She can’t move or speak, but she can hear and gradually she begins to remember who she is and what happened to her.

Saving Missy by Beth Morrey. Missy (Millicent) Carmichael is seventy nine, living on her own in a large house, left with sad memories of what her life used to be, a wife, mother and grandmother, but now she is alone. Her husband, Leo is no longer with her, her son and his family are in Australia and she and her daughter are estranged after a big row. And there is something else too, for Missy has a guilty secret that is gnawing away at her. This really is a special book, full of wonderful characters, ordinary people drawn from life, about everyday events, pleasures and difficulties.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. In 1942 in Seattle Henry Lee, a 12 year old Chinese American boy meets Keiko Okabe, a Japanese American girl and they become great friends, even though Henry’s father is against the Japanese because of the enmity between China and Japan. As the war progressed the persecution of Japanese Americans intensified and they were removed from their homes and interned. Keiko and her family are moved to Camp Harmony, a temporary relocation centre at the Puyallup Fairgrounds, and not allowed to take their belongings with them. Many Japanese families, including Keiko’s, manage to store some in the basement of the Panama Hotel. Henry is devastated, certain he won’t see her again, especially when the families are moved to a permanent relocation centre, Minidoka in Idaho. 

The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark, a story centred on the lives of two women – Elizabeth Pringle and Martha Morrison. Elizabeth has lived all her life on the Isle of Arran and knowing that she is dying and has no living relatives, leaves her house, Holmlea in Lamlash, to Anna Morrison, a woman, who is all but a stranger, someone she had seen years before, pushing her daughter’s pram down the road outside. It’s about family, relationships, especially mother/daughter/sister relationships, about happiness, love and heartbreak, old age, memories and the contrast between life in the early part of the twentieth century and the present.

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan, the harrowing account of the atrocities of Srebrenica in 1995 and the search for justice forms the basis of this intriguing novel. Extracts from statements and reports from survivors of the massacre head each chapter, giving voice to the ‘unquiet dead‘. Alongside that is the investigation by detectives Esa Khattak and Rachel Getty into the death of Christopher Drayton who fell from the heights of the Scarborough Bluffs. Was it suicide, or an accident? Or was he pushed -and if so, who pushed him and why?

Everything But the Truth by Gillian McAllister set in both Newcastle and Oban, with clearly defined and believable characters, a complex plot with plenty of twists and turns, and a dark secret. It is up to date about social media and information about the internet and how to find hidden information (which as I’m not that computer savvy I had to Google to see if it was genuine – it is). The atmosphere in this book is tense and increasingly dark and claustrophobic.

Eyes Like Mine by Sheena Kamal.

The main focus of the book is Nora, her traumatic background and her search for her daughter, Bonnie, now a teenager, who she gave away as a new-born baby. Nora is shocked by her reaction when she sees a photo of Bonnie – there is no doubt that she is her daughter, with her dark hair and golden skin. But it is her eyes that clinch it for Nora; Bonnie has the same eyes, dark and fathomless. And Nora feels as though she is in a nightmare.

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward

In January 1978 two eight-year old girls, Rachel Jones and Sophie Jenkins were walking to school together when a strange woman offered them a lift in her car. Rachel is later found in Truscott Woods but Sophie was never found.  Move forward 30 years when Sophie’s mother commits suicide. Troubled by Yvonne Jenkin’s suicide, the police reopen the case – Superintendent Llewellyn who was on the original team asks DI Francis Sadler and his team, DC Connie Childs and DS Damian Palmer to see if there was anything that had been missed in 1978.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Living Things in the Titles

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 a Freebie and I’m featuring Books with Living Things in the Titles.

These are all books I’ve read, so the links take you to my posts on them.

The Behaviour of Moths by Poppy Adams – the story of two sisters, Ginny and Vivi. Vivi, the younger sister left the family mansion 47 years earlier and returns unexpectedly one weekend. Ginny, a reclusive moth expert has rarely left the house in all that time.

The Cat Who Could Read Backwards by Lilian Jackson Braun – about Koko, the Siamese cat and Jim Qwilleran who investigate a stabbing in an art gallery.

Corvus: a Life with Birds by Esther Woolfson – a remarkable book about the birds she has had living with her; birds that were found out of the nest that would not have survived if she had not taken them in.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald – I really wanted to love this but I found it difficult to read and draining, despite some richly descriptive narrative. It’s about wildness, grief and mourning, and obsession, which made it heavy reading for me.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding – about a group of boys stranded on a desert island. Things got completely out of hand ending in chaos. It is absolutely gripping and very dark, showing the savage side of human nature.

James Herriot’s Cat Stories by James Herriot – James writes that cats were one of the main reasons he chose a career as a vet. They have always played a large part in his life and and now he has retired they are still there “lightening” his days.

The Lady of the Ravens by Joanna Hickson – set in the early years of Henry VII’s reign as seen through the eyes of Joan Vaux, a lady in waiting to Elizabeth of York, whose marriage in 1486 to Henry united the Houses of Lancaster and York after the end of the Wars of the Roses.

The Owl Service by Alan Garner – the basis of the story is the Welsh legend from The Mabinogion about Lleu and his wife Blodeuwedd who was made for him out of flowers. It’s a tragedy about three people who destroy each other through no fault of their own but just because they were forced together.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday – a novel about Sheikh Muhammad, who has an estate in Scotland where he pursues his great love of fly fishing, wants scientific advice on how best to introduce salmon fishing into the Yemen.

The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney – a murder mystery set in Canada in 1867 beginning in a small place called Dove River on the north shore of Georgian Bay. Laurent Jammet, a hunter-trader, has been found in his bed with his throat cut. His neighbour, 17 year old Francis Ross, is missing and his mother fears he may be the killer.

Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2022

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 2022.

All of them are fiction and some of them are debut novels, whilst others are books that were first published years ago. I enjoyed all of them – I’ve marked my favourites with an asterisk *.

*Miss Austen by Gill Hornby – historical fiction about Cassandra, Jane Austen’s sister. Totally believable.

*The Homecoming by Anna Enquist  – historical fiction about Captain James Cooke told from his wife, Elizabeth’s perspective. A different view of Captain Cook’s life!

The Chalet by Catherine Cooper – a murder mystery, set mainly in La Madière, a fictional ski resort in the French Alps, a story of revenge, stemming from the events in 1998 when two brothers go skiing with their girlfriends and only one of the brothers returns.

Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook – historical fiction set in 19th Australia. When Charles Brightwell disappears from his pearl fishing ship, his daughter refuses to accept he is dead and goes looking for him.

A Tapping at My Door by David Jackson – a crime thriller. The mystery begins as Terri Latham is disturbed late one night by a ‘tapping, scratching, scrabbling noise at her back door’.

*Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens –  a story of loneliness and of the effects of rejection – a story of survival and the power of love combined with a murder mystery, and full of fascinating characters that had me racing through its pages.

*The Second Sight of Zachery Cloudesley by Sean Lusk – a mixture of historical fact and fantasy set in the 18th century, in London and in Constantinople. The characters are fabulous, the settings are beautifully described and the historical background is fascinating.

*A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute – this was not what I thought it would be; it’s not about Alice Springs in Australia. It is the story of Jean Paget and her experiences during the war in Malaya after the Japanese invaded and later when she returned after the end of the war, ending with her life in Australia.

Mrs March by Virginia Feito – beautifully written, but so tragic. I couldn’t like any of the characters, but they got under my skin as I read and I wanted it to end differently – of course, it couldn’t.

Now and Forever by Ray Bradbury – two novellas, the first about the mysterious Summerton, a small town in the middle of Arizona, a town which seems perfect and the second a retelling of Moby Dick set in outer space.

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Books of 2022

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 a Favourite Books of 2022.

I rated most of the books I read 4* or 5*. These are ten of my 5* books with links in the titles to my reviews where they exist.On another day Icould easily pick a list of ten different favorite books.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Last Man in Tower by Aravind Adiga 

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter

The Hiding Place by Simon Lelic

he Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carré

The Last Trial by Scott Turow

The Man in the Bunker by Rory Clements

How To Catch a Mole by Marc Hamer – nonfiction

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with Moon in the Title

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 a Freebie: Books with Moon in the Title.

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively – 1987 Booker Prize winner – a novel about a historian in her seventies looking back over her life.

The Moon and Sixpence by W Somerset Maugham – about Charles Strickland, who was a stockbroker, a boring man, who left his wife and family after seventeen years of marriage and fled to Paris, because he wanted to paint. His wife and friends would have found it more acceptable if he had left her for another woman.

Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook – historical fiction set in 19th century Australia. Charles Brightwell, a pearler, goes missing from his ship while out at sea. It seems he just disappeared and no one can tell his daughter, Eliza what happened to him, but she is convinced there is more to the story and refuses to believe her father is dead.

A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry – historical fiction set in the American West in the 1870s, in the aftermath of the Civil War. It continues the story of Thomas McNulty and John Cole, and Winona, the young Indian girl they had adopted.

Playing With the Moon by Eliza Graham – more historical fiction, moving from 1944 to the present. The book deals with memory, the power of memory, with loss, grief and bereavement. It’s also about war, the legacy of war, and of how to make sense of our lives.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins – the Moonstone, a large diamond, originally stolen from a statue of an Indian God and said to be cursed is left to Rachel Verinder. She receives it on her 18th birthday and that night it is stolen from her bedroom. Chief suspects are three Indian jugglers, who are Hindu priests dedicated to retrieving the jewel.

Moonflower Murders by Anthony Horowitz – A labyrinth of clues, a mystery novel hiding a deadly secret, a killer with a fiendish plot: a brilliantly intricate and original thriller. 

Moon over Soho by Ben Aaronvitch – the second Rivers of London novel. This one is about the murder of Cyrus Wilkinson, a part-time jazz saxophonist, who had apparently dropped dead of a heart attack just after finishing a gig in a Soho jazz club. 

Two Moons by Jennifer Johnston – set in Dublin this is the story of three women, Mimi and her daughter Grace who live in a house overlooking Dublin Bay, and Mimi’s mother Grace, an actress, who is absorbed in rehearsals for Hamlet in which she is playing Gertrude.

The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley – the 5th book in the The Seven Sisters series, based on the legends of The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades. This one is about Tiggy D’Apilese, the fifth sister adopted by Pa Salt and brought up in their childhood home, ‘Atlantis’ – a fabulous, secluded castle situated on the shores of Lake Geneva. 

Top Ten Tuesday: Cozy Mysteries

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 Cozy Reads. My list is of Cozy Mysteries, all of which I’ve read or have waiting to-be-read*. A  cozy mystery is a mystery that doesn’t usually have any bad language, sex scenes, or gruesome details about the killing, and the main character is often an amateur detective.

Betrayed in Cornwall by Janie Bolitho – the fourth book in the Rose Trevelyan series. When a young man falls off a cliff in suspicious circumstances, Rose starts to make connections and things start to go terribly wrong. The characters are quickly drawn, but I still felt they were believable, the writing is fluent, and the Cornish location is superb.

The Body on the Beach by Simon Brett – the first in the Fethering Mysteries. It’s an easy read, set in a fictitious village on the south coast of England, where Carole Seddon has taken early retirement from her career at the Home Office. One morning she discovers a dead body on the beach, but by the time the police go to investigate it had disappeared.

Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody  – the first of the Kate Shackleton Mysteries set in Yorkshire in 1922, with flashbacks to 1916. Bridgestead is a peaceful mill village, until the day in 1916 when mill owner Joshua Braithwaite went missing after apparently trying to commit suicide.

Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn – the first Daisy Dalrymple book, a quick and easy read, a mix of Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse, set in 1923 at the Earl of Wentwater’s country mansion, Wentwater Court. 

Faithful Unto Death by Caroline Graham – a Midsomer Murder Mystery. I’ve enjoyed watching the TV series over the years. Midsomer is obviously a dangerous place to live with all those murders happening so regularly, but they are not the gory kind – it’s murder of a sanitised nature.

The Marlow Murder Club by Robert Thorogood – easy to read and fast paced. Seventy-seven year old Judith, and her friends discover who killed Stefan, who was found dead in the Thames, with a bullet hole in the centre of his forehead. The first book in the Marlow Murder Club series.

The Heiress of Linn Hagh* by Karen Charlton – the first book in the Detective Lavender Mystery series. Northumberland, November 1809. A beautiful young heiress disappears from her locked bedchamber at Linn Hagh. The local constables are baffled and the townsfolk cry ‘witchcraft’.

Stealing the Crown* by T P Fielden – London, 1941: Major Edgar Brampton is found shot dead in his office in Buckingham Palace. All signs point towards a self-inflicted tragedy, but when Palace authorities hurry his body away and order staff to stay silent, fellow courtier Guy Harford’s suspicions are raised. The first book in the Guy Harford Mystery series,

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House by M C Beaton – there are three deaths for Agatha to resolve when an old woman reports that her house is haunted and is later found murdered. More deaths follow. I thought this book was all rather silly and Agatha herself is a silly woman.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman – in a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet up once a week to investigate unsolved killings. This is quietly humorous in parts, not laugh out loud funny, but it did make me smile in a few places. The murder mystery element is over complicated with far too many twists and turns, suspects and false trails. It didn’t turn out to be as good as I’d hoped!

Top Ten Tuesday: “Aww” Moments In Books

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 Favorite “Aww” Moments In Books (Share those sweet/cute moments in books that give you warm fuzzies.) Well this was hard as I don’t read much romantic fiction so I’ve twisted it a bit to include books that moved me to tears. And that was hard too as there aren’t many books that do that. But anyway, here’s my offering today and I’m amazed I found ten – maybe I do like romantic fiction after all:

Saving Missy by Beth Morrey – a special book, full of wonderful characters, ordinary people drawn from life, about everyday events, pleasures and difficulties. the joys that friendship can bring, and the love and companionship that a dog can give you. It moved me to tears.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – the sacrifice that Sydney Carton made to save Charles Darnay from the Guillotine, with these words, which close the book: It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known. It just loved this the first time I read it as a teenager – still do.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford  – another book that brought tears to my eyes, a beautiful book moving between two time periods, the early 1940s and 1986, set in Seattle, about the friendship betweena Chinese American boy and a Japanese American girl.

The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker is a romantic novel with a touch of magic about it. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would – a novel about friendship, family relationships, love, caring for others and the importance of finding your own inner strength.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – left alone, Kya survived with help from Jumpin’, the general store owner, who lived in Colored Town and his wife, Mabel, and also from Tate, an older boy who taught her to read and write. It’s a story of survival and the power of love combined with a murder mystery, which didn’t actually bring tears to my eyes, but one I enjoyed.

Star Gazing by Linda Gillard – Marianne who has been blind from birth falls in love with Keir, a solitary Highlander and geophysicist, who works on the oil rigs, but who spends his time on shore at his house on Skye. The locations in Star Gazing are just beautiful, described so vividly you could almost be there. Marianne falls in love with Keir and with Skye and I loved this book.

Atonement by Ian McEwan is another book that moved me to tears, even reading it for the second time when I already knew the story. It is a captivating story of the use of imagination, shame and forgiveness, love, war and class-consciousness in England in the twentieth century. The depiction of the Second World War is both horrifying and emotional as British troops were withdrawn from France in 1940.

Persuasion by Jane Austen – I’m including this as it is one of those books that does give me an “aww” feeling telling of Anne Elliot’s constancy in her love for Captain Wentworth. I switch between this book and Pride and Prejudice as my favourite Austen novel – I love watching Elizabeth Bennet’s realisation that she loves Mr Darcy.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman – it is ultimately about life and death, love and friendship, loyalty and the fight between good and evil. There is humour, sadness and suspense. Above all it is about growing up and the excitement and expectations that Bod has about life. Quite simply it touched me.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah is one of the most moving books I’ve read and I was emotionally drained by the end of the story. It tells of two French sisters and their experiences during the occupation of France in the Second World War. I was in tears at the sadness and pathos of it all.

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Would like to Start (Maybe)

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 Series I’d Like to Start/Catch up on/Finish, and because I listed some of the book series I’m still reading in an earlier post, I’ve decided to look at some series I might like to start reading.

Liveship TradersShip of Magic by Robin Hobb

Siri Paiboun The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill

John ShakespeareMartyr by Rory Clements

Detective Joe SandilandsThe Last Kashmiri Rose by Barbara Cleverly

The Mistra Chronicles The Walls of Byzantium by James Heneage

Harry Bosch The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

Inspector Albert Lincoln – A High Morality of Doves by Kate Ellis

Tom Hawkins The Devil in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson

DI Nikki Galena Crime on the Fens by Joy Ellis

Flavia Albia –  The Ides of April by Lindsey Davies

Top Ten Tuesday: Weird and Wonderful Words

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: Favorite Words (This isn’t so much bookish, but I thought it would be fun to share words we love! These could be words that are fun to say, sound funny, mean something great, or make you smile when you read/hear them.)

I’m using Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll as my source of fun words – more than ten. The illustrations are all from my old paperback copy of the book.

I think his poem Jabberwocky in Through the Looking Glass is just perfect for my TTT post this week, full of weird and wonderful words.

illustration by John Tenniel

This was a great favourite of mine as a child and I still love the poem, Jabberwocky which begins:

Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jujub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch.

I had no idea what the words meant but I loved the sound of them and learned them off by heart. Humpty Dumpty explains to Alice that ‘brillig’ means ‘4 o’clock’, ‘slithy’ means ‘lithe and slimy’ and ‘toves’ are something like badgers  and lizards and corkscrews, to ‘gyre and gimble’ means to go round and round like a gyroscope and make holes like a gimlet and the ‘wabe’ is a grass-plot around a sundial – as shown in this illustration also  by John Tenniel:

In The Hunting of the Snark the Jujub bird is described in much greater depth than in Jabberwocky. It is found in a narrow, dark, depressing and isolated valley. Its voice when heard is described as a scream, shrill and high, like a pencil squeaking on a slate, and significantly it scares those who hear it. Frumious Carroll claimed, means a combination of fuming and furious and a bandersnatch is also described in Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, as a creature with a long neck and snapping jaws, and both works describe it as ferocious and extraordinarily fast. 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read On Vacation

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: Books I Read On Vacation.

Ammonites and Leaping Fish: a Life in Time by Penelope Lively –

Looking back I remember buying three books in Gatwick airport bookshops before boarding planes to go on holiday:

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver – I bought this just before boarding a plane to go on holiday to Cyprus, so I read it on the plane and by the swimming pool.

Fortune’s Rocks by Anita Shreve – another book I read on holiday in Cyprus.

Happenstance by Carol Shields – I read this one in Tunisia. I began reading it in the departure lounge, then on the plane and round the hotel pool.

The next four in a holiday cottage near Painswick in the Cotswolds.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

Arlington Park by Rachel Cusk

I read the next three in Caldbeck in the Lake District.

The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop

Entry Island by Peter May

Testament of a Witch by Douglas Watt

And I read the last one in an isolated converted barn on the North Yorks Moors.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronvitch