Ten new/forthcoming New England books (with giveaway!)


Over at the Broke and the Bookish, the Top Ten Tuesday topic is “Books you picked up on a whim,” but I’m twisting that slightly to feature new and forthcoming books that fit into my Reading New England challenge. Suddenly, there seem to be tons of fantastic New England books coming out, and I want to read them all! I might not have noticed them if not for the challenge, so that’s sort of a whim, right?

As a special bonus, I’m pleased to announce that I’m able to offer a giveaway (US-only) of this month’s release, The Children by Ann Leary. Many thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for their generosity. It sounds like a great read, and I hope you all will be as excited about it as I am. Scroll down to the bottom of the post for the entry widget, and good luck!



StudyCharlotte   MaybeFox   DeliveringTruth   Children   HeresToUs

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (March) – A YA mystery that has teenage descendants of Holmes and Watson meeting each other in a Connecticut prep school.

Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee (March) – A sad but powerful tale of grief and healing, centered around two young sisters in Vermont.

Delivering the Truth by Edith Maxwell (April) – First in a series of historical mysteries in which a Quaker midwife attends births — and encounters deadly secrets — in a Massachusetts mill town.

The Children by Ann Leary (May) – As a wedding draws near in a wealthy, unconventional Connecticut family, hidden resentments and unfortunate truths come to the surface. Enter the giveaway below!

Here’s to Us by Elin Hildebrand (June) – Three women gather in a Nantucket cottage after the death of the man they all loved.

Whale   NewEnglandBound   LucyPear   GhostlyEchoes   EvilWizardSmallbone

The Whale: A Love Story by Mark Beauregard (June) – In the literary society of 1850s New England, authors Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne develop a remarkable bond.

New England Bound: Slavery and Colonization in Early America by Wendy Warren (June) – A searing examination of how the institution of slavery was woven into the origins of our nation — north as well as south.

Leaving Lucy Pear by Anna Solomon (July) – The entangled lives of two women in 1920s New England, both mother to one extraordinary girl.

Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter (August) – Third in the popular “Jackaby” series of YA supernatural mysteries, set in nineteenth century New England.

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman (September) – A middle grade fantasy set in a “perfect” Maine village that turns out to be even more magical than it seems.
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Ten books I want to read in 2016

This year I want to challenge myself somewhat to read outside my usual boundaries, to tackle some topics that are uncomfortable for me and to encounter diverse characters and cultures. So without any particular rules in mind, I selected various books from my TBR that I’d like to make a priority in 2016. I made this list some time ago and have actually already read two of the books on it, both of which I loved — so the effort so far is definitely worth it.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?


JustMercy  BeingMortal  BetweenWorldMe  ExcellentDaughters  SixthExtinction


Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson – Read, January 2016

Being Mortal by Utul Gawande – Read, February 2016

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Excellent Daughters by Katherine Zoepf


Lagoon  StationEleven  MidnightRiot  Kindred  UnnecessaryWoman


Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovich

Kindred by Octavia Butler

An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

Witch Week 2015: Top Ten Stories That Take the Old to the New (Guest Post)

This post is part of Witch Week, an annual celebration of fantasy books and authors. This year’s theme is New Tales from Old, focusing on fiction based in fairy tale, folklore, and myth. For more about Witch Week, see the Master Post.

TopTenSQFor today’s post, I went to one of my favorite sources of Top Ten Tuesday lists, Susie from Girl with Her Head in a Book, to see whether she’d be up for doing one especially for Witch Week. I was so happy that she agreed to take on the challenge for her first-ever guest post! GWHHIAB’s lists are always full of surprising connections, interesting insights, and boundless enthusiasm, and this one is no exception. I hope you’ll find some old and new favorites in this list, which has something for everyone. Enjoy!


So, this is my very first ever guest post and I am a tiny bit excited. When Lory explained about Witch Week and asked me to draw up a list of stories which made use of fairy tales and other traditional lore, my brain immediately went into overdrive and this is a mere edited summary of a list that could probably have hit three figures if I had not been very careful. Many stories hinge on the same structure and there are many novels which are the clear offspring of more primeval forebears. We have been telling and retelling each other the same stories since the beginning of time; what is interesting is how the methods we use have changed over the centuries.

The Harry Potter Chronicles, JK Rowling


While many have criticised this series as a derivative British boarding school adventure (particular parallels being drawn to The Worst Witch), I would argue that they are missing the point. JK Rowling takes the core grammar of fairy-tales and makes them her own. The magical universe of witches, wizards, spells and magical creatures is harnessed in a structure of rules and regulations. The older laws of folklore are disregarded by the foolish at their peril — we see this as Umbridge decries the centaurs as ‘filthy half-breeds’ and thus is abducted by them, but more particularly when You-Know-Who’s lack of heed to the old rules brings about his downfall. Rowling’s collection The Tales of Beedle the Bard makes use of the fairy tale structure with similar adeptness — her prose may not have the fluidity of an Angela Carter, but one cannot doubt that Rowling speaks fairy-tale fluently. Image: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Cinderella – Ella Enchanted, Ella’s Big Chance

ella_cover_different  ellas chance

The Cinderella rags-to-riches story is one of the very, very oldest and but the figure of Cinderella is surprisingly fluid. Cloak-a-Rushes makes her the cast-out daughter of the King; in Mexico they call her Adelita, in Germany Ashputtel, but she is just a rose by another name. About ten to fifteen years ago, there was a trend for more assertive Cinderellas. In Ever After, Drew Barrymore played a version who read Utopia, befriended Leonardo Da Vinci and who only married the Dauphin when she was certain that he loved her. In Shirley Hughes’s Ella’s Big Chance, in the end Ella decided that she didn’t know the prince very well and that she’d rather marry Buttons whom she’d known all her life and knew would be a good match. My personal favourite is Ella Enchanted (don’t watch the film, though, it’s dire), which has a heroine who bounds onto the page, most likely tripping over her own feet. Bound by a childhood curse which has forced her to be obedient, Ella is determined to overcome it by any means necessary. More recent adaptations seem to indicate a downturn, however, with Kenneth Branagh’s recent Cinderella displaying a return to the more inert portrayals. I am not sure what this means, except perhaps that fashions change, but I know which version I would most wish to pass on to the next generation.

Twilight/Fifty Shades of Grey/Dark Fairy Tales

Twilightbook  fifty shades of grey
I know. It’s awful. But for a list like this, it is impossible to ignore the rise of the Dark Fairy Tale. You can spot them a mile away — their covers are black with a single brightly-coloured object in the centre which somehow symbolises the monstrosity behind the myth. These are generally ‘low-fantasy’ books, meaning that magic is not supposed to exist, with an ingenue heroine who gets to be all startled by the goings-on. The insipid Bella Swann is a good example of this; another is Amanda Seyfried playing Red Riding Hood. Being the lead in a dark fairy tale involves being pale, wearing a lot of lip gloss, and gawping a lot in terror. Still, the original Grimm Fairy Tale version of Red Riding Hood is also pretty shocking in its implied eroticism, with the Wolf getting the child into bed — there are a lot of theories that the myth of Red Riding Hood itself is about the loss of virginity. This links in to Fifty Shades of Grey, with Christian Grey being a fairly creepy version of the Big Bad Wolf — but he is so insanely wealthy that the heroine allows herself to be swept off her feet. For all that Anastasia may repeatedly claim that she is not swayed by the expensive books, the helicopter and the designer clothes, it is obvious that E L James expects the reader to be impressed. Forget a pumpkin coach — this man can buy a fancy car. Never mind glass slippers, this guy can get you Louboutins. Forget the gentleman bringing the lady Milk Tray, Christian Grey just buys her an iPad. The obvious materialism of this is depressing, but it does represent the rising consumerist obsession of our society. We want our fairy tales with better stuff and we don’t want to have to pay for it ourselves.

Discworld, Terry Pratchett


I have mourned few authors in the way in which I mourned Terry Pratchett. I loved Discworld, this anarchic interpretation of a post-Industrial-Revolution Fairyland. Although the series followed a broad continuity, it was easy enough to dip in and out and each of the books tended to satirise and skewer something slightly different. Dwarves and trolls are locked in a sectarian-style conflict, vampires attempt to rehabilitate and overcome their addiction and over in Lancre, there is Granny Weatherwax using headology to keep things running. Pratchett always has a healthy respect for the risks of magic — the wizarding Archchancellors of the Unseen University have a high mortality rate in early volumes, with the institution’s librarian being turned into an orang-utan. In Lords and Ladies, we meet the deadly elves, but it is the way that Pratchett balances their menace with humour that shows what a skillful storyteller he truly was.  And I always remember how he explains that country folk put horseshoes over the doorway because those tended to be handy pieces of iron that they were likely to have hanging around, and somewhere deep down they remembered that iron repelled elves. There is a kind of practicality to Pratchett’s writing that brings the traditions of fairy tales down to earth — such as in The Wee Free Men, when Tiffany Aching reads that the monster that has abducted her younger brother has ‘eyes the size of soup-plates.’  Recognising that this is of little help, Tiffany goes home, gets a tape measure and finds a soup plate, and then has an actual idea of what she is dealing with. An excellent attitude to have, given that she is introduced shortly afterwards to the Nac Mac Feegle, a race of Scottish pixies thrown out of Fairyland for being Drunk and Disorderly. Throughout the series, Pratchett displays little sympathy for those of a poetic or artistic disposition — Agnes Nitt never does get to be Perdita Dream — but he does let his characters learn Useful Lessons, perhaps the greatest fable tradition of all. Image: Yenefer

The Peter Grant Adventures, Ben Aaronovitch

peter grantI still feel as though ridiculously few people have read the Peter Grant books.  Starting with Rivers of London, they move on to Moon Over Soho, then Whispers Undergound and Broken Homes. Last year saw the release of Foxglove Summer, with The Hanging Tree coming up next year. Peter Grant was a bog-standard trainee police officer when he happened to be accosted by a ghost while guarding a murder scene. With his only other career option being the Case Progression Unit (paperwork and nothing but), Peter reluctantly agrees to join the occult division of the Met, headed by Inspector Nightingale (a.k.a. Merlin/Gandalf/Dumbledore, except that something’s going on that means he’s aging in reverse, nobody is sure why but Nightingale is not complaining). The beauty of the series is how standard police jargon is applied to magical matters. Having been fully-trained in political correctness, Peter winces at the term ‘black wizard,’ preferring instead ‘ethically-challenged,’ and he is fully committed to ‘engaging with the stake-holders’ of the magical community, as well as dealing with the turf wars between Mother Thames and Father Thames (unrelated entities, hence the issue). Nightingale and Peter have the classic bleary-eyed cynicism of law enforcement, except their cases involve children abducted by the Faerie Queen, or the on-going calamity of the Faceless Man. One part I particularly enjoy is how Peter’s Sierra Leonean mother is so much prouder of her wizard-fighting son than she ever would have been when he was a mere policeman. Like Harry Potter, this book roots itself in our world, but applies twenty-first-century attitudes to ancient stories to superb effect. Image: Ben Aaronovitch

Which Witch?, Eva Ibbotson

which-witch-978144726574001I read this as a child and adored it — I also loved The Secret of Platform 13 and The Great Ghost Rescue, but this one has to be number one. Arriman’s parents looked at their baby and saw that he was different.  So his father very sensibly went to the library, looked up his symptoms and came up with a diagnosis — wizard.  And a dark one at that. So they named him Arriman and encouraged him to be the best kind of dark wizard that it was possible to be. When the time comes for Arriman to select a wife, he decides to hold an evil magic contest of the witches in his local area, who are not a particularly prepossessing group. My personal favourite is Mother Bloodworth, who is rather elderly and finds doing magic taxing, so her continued attempts to cast a spell to make herself young again have the distressing side-effect of repeatedly transforming her into a coffee table. I love the inversion of a group of women competing for a man’s hand rather than vice versa, and the supporting characters are superb.

The Borrowers and The Little Grey Men

borrowers  little grey men

One of my favourite fairy tales was that of the Elves and the Shoemaker. I loved the details about the little clothes that the Shoemaker’s wife made for the Elves — it is a very gentle use of the myth that arming any of these magical creatures with clothes will set them free, another old myth that JK Rowling makes use of. It is that urge to examine our world on a micro level that makes both Mary Norton’s Borrowers series and BB’s The Little Grey Men so much fun — and I could not choose between them. Neither series is rooted in a world that is inherently magical, indeed they are both recognisably dominated by humans. Mary Norton specifies that she had attempted to remain in the bounds of realism in her writing — even Pod’s balloon is designed to work properly. The fascination for me was always the idea of viewing life on a micro level, of tiny people who plunder dolls-houses for their chinaware, for whom mice are deadly predators and whose habitat is always under threat from those giants who are incapable of understanding them. The metaphor is heavy-handed (protect the planet!) but no less beautifully delivered.

The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly

book-of-lost-things-uk-225I almost put this one in the dark fairy tales but I feel that there is more to it than that. The Book of Lost Things embraces all that is dark and deadly about fairy tales along with a hefty helping of nastiness from the land of Men. David is an angry child, bitter at his mother’s death and father’s immediate remarriage — David is promised a kingdom by the Crooked Man if he will only give up his half brother George, or else he must find the current King Jonathan’s Book of Lost Things so he can go home. Like the musical Into the Woods and Kate Danley’s The Woodcutter, here fairyland reflects the darkness within our own imaginations, our fears given flesh and teeth. David is disgusted by how his father’s sexual appetite let him to betray David’s mother, and his revulsion for womankind is played out in the land he is taken to.  Sexuality is a frequent theme in fairytales, for all that they are supposedly designed for children. The magical realm is a place for broken things and broken people — be careful where you step, because anything could be out there in the wood.

The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

Erin-Morgenstern-The-Night-CircusThis novel went viral a few years ago and publishers have been seeking to replicate its success ever since.  I’ve lost count of the number of books I’ve seen with stickers or quotes beside them saying that they are ‘perfect for fans of The Night Circus.’  I feel a certain degree of cynicism about books being marketed on the merits of others, but I understand the urge to return to the Circus’s very particular glamour.  The circus is a fantastical realm, constructed to play out the contest between Marcus and Celia — a highly original wizarding duel. But the plot is secondary to the evocative descriptions of the luxurious delights available should the Circus des Reves ever head your way. It reminds me of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” of the rooms upon rooms of magical beauty, all of which can be only sampled sparingly. One never knows when the spell may be struck asunder, sending us back to a world which will always seem the greyer once we have glimpsed bright colour.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman

​I truly believe that Neil Gaiman is the one-man Brothers Grimm for our age.  Like JK Rowling, he masters the fairy tale format with flair and fluency, but his prose is also startling in its perfection. I have come to his work only gradually and feel slightly late to the party.  What always impresses me is how he consistently brings a fresh perspective to old stories — his “The Problem of Susan” tackled the uncomfortable fate of Susan Pevensie, Anansi Boys breathed new life into the Anansi mythology, and more recently he wrote The Sleeper and the Spindle. My personal favourite remains The Ocean at the End of the Lane which in my view is as near to perfect as a novel can get. The Man is discontented and by chance finds himself in the area in which he grew up, so he looks for the pond which his childhood friend swore was an ocean. As the story unfolds, we are treated to an unearthly tale — but is it what truly happened? There are several points when the Man acknowledges that there are other interpretations. Which takes us to the reason why people first began to tell each other stories in the first place — to better understand our humanity. Gaiman understands not only the grammar of fantasy but also what motivates it — fans of the fairy tale would do well to follow him.

Once again, a great big thank you to Lory for letting me participate — I have had so much fun drawing up the list.  There were many very worthy contenders which did not make the cut but I would urge you to remember that fairy tales are worth reading well beyond the bounds of childhood — they contain so many truths about our own nature, and the differing ways we tell them tells us a lot about ourselves as well.

Girl with her Head in a Book is from the UK and tends to panic if she only has one book in her handbag. Currently living in Oxford, she’s a Northerner at heart and likes knitting, Jane Austen and Granny Smith apples. Add a cup of tea and you’ve got yourself an ideal afternoon in. Her site features listography, reviews and general book-themed tomfoolery. Visitors are always welcomed warmly.

Top Ten Halloween Books


I’m not a fan of the grisly or the gruesome in literature, so I was surprised at how many books I’ve enjoyed that fit into this week’s Top Ten Tuesday category. I had narrow my list down to ten, in fact! What these books have in common is that they are not about gratuitous thrills or violence — they have some of the best development of character, setting and atmosphere out there. Exploring what’s on the edge of our human experience, letting in elements of the unexpected and dangerous, can lead to some very interesting fiction, it seems. I’m looking forward to revisiting some of these during Witch Week — will you be joining us?



JenHecate  GraveyardBook  DrownedMaid  FireHemlockPB  WeHaveCastle

Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth by E.L. Konigsburg
When I reread this childhood favorite not so long ago I was newly impressed by its subtly subversive message.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Out of our childish fascination with ghosts and graveyards, Gaiman weaves a magical tale of love, belonging, and connection.

A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz
I loved this debut novel (subtitled A Melodrama) about spiritualism and deception in early 20th century New England.

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
Probably my very favorite Halloween book, and one of my favorite books of all time. From last year’s Witch Week, this guest post by Ana of Things Mean a Lot helps explain what it means to one of its many fans.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
I discovered this deliciously creepy tale of a reclusive family back in high school, when I perhaps tended to identify a little too closely with the protagonist. Don’t worry, I’ve gotten over that now…I think.

FinePrivate  AllHallowsEve  WorldWonders  LollyWillowes  TamLin2

A Fine and Private Place by Peter S. Beagle
A love story beyond the grave? Peter S. Beagle can make us believe it’s possible.

All Hallows Eve by Charles Williams
Another variation on the love-after-death theme, with Williams’s strange and mystical touch.

World of Wonders by Robertson Davies
This story of how a neglected small-town Canadian boy becomes a world-famous wizard is truly mesmerizing.

Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Warner’s tale of an ageing English spinster who becomes a witch is a sly modern fable that’s become an underground classic.

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean
I had to put in a plug for the book I’ll be blogging about on Halloween! Come back here on October 31 for a tour of the real sites behind “Blackstock College,” Dean’s setting for a modern retelling of the sixteenth century ballad.

Ten Books that I’d Put on the Syllabus for Austen in August

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is Books that Would Be on Your Syllabus if You Taught [your subject of choice]101. I have Jane Austen on the brain because of Roof Beam Reader’s Austen in August event, so I thought I’d create a syllabus for that.  It’s a course I’d love to take myself — wouldn’t you?



Emma VisitHighbury JaneFairfax

Emma by Jane Austen
A Visit to Highbury by Joan Austen-Leigh
Jane Fairfax by Joan Aiken

2015 is Emma’s 200th birthday, so what better time to read her story? I’ve paired it with a couple of retellings from the point of view of other characters (Mrs. Goddard in the former, and the eponymous Miss Fairfax in the latter), which should give rise to good discussions and perhaps some controversy over the secondary authors’ interpretation.



JAustenALife JAustenTomalin RealJA

Jane Austen: A Life by Carol Shields
Jane Austen: A Life
by Claire Tomalin
The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things by Paula Byrne

These three recent biographies are all excellent, and I would recommend tackling them in this order. First, Carol Shields’s pithy introduction from then Penguin Lives series; then Claire Tomalin’s more expansive account; finally, Paula Byrne’s riff on the theme, which is arranged topically rather than chronologically.


Other Nonfiction

JAustensEngland JAustenWorld JanesFame

Jane Austen’s England by Roy and Lesley Adkins
Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels by Deirdre Le Faye
Jane’s Fame by Claire Harman

The Adkinses draw on primary sources to give us a unique perspective on the period, peeking into the lives of people from social classes both high and low. For a more visual approach, Deirdre Le Faye’s book can’t be beat as a gorgeously illustrated overview of Austen’s life and work. And Claire Harman takes us on a fascinating tour of the rise and fall and meteoric rise of Austen’s reputation as an author, with a number of surprises along the way.


Extra Credit

Is Heathcliff a Murderer? and Who Betrays Elizabeth Bennet? by John Sutherland

WhoBetraysEBennetSutherland’s “literary puzzle” books are great fun, and these two include a question derived from Emma (Why are apple trees blossoming in June) which readers of that novel should enjoy pondering. Austen in August “students” are encouraged to come up with their own solutions — and further puzzles!

Ten Favorite Fairytale Retellings

PicMonkey FairyTales

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is Favorite Fairy Tale Retellings. I already did a post on seven of my favorites, but here are ten more that I enjoyed. (As you can tell, this is one of my favorite genres — I’d love more recommendations!)

  • Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth (Rapunzel)
  • A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce (Rumpelstiltskin)
  • East by Edith Pattou (East of the Sun, West of the Moon)
  • Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (Cinderella)
  • Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (Maid Maleen)
  • Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (The Twelve Dancing Princesses)
  • Deerskin by Robin McKinley (Donkeyskin)
  • Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip (Beauty and the Beast)
  • Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede (Snow White and Rose Red)
  • Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl (The Goose Girl)

Ten Bookish Characters

PicMonkey BookishChar

For Top Ten Tuesday, some of my favorite characters who are fellow “book nerds” — writers, readers, and storytellers. Who’s on your list?

Tanaqui in The Spellcoats by Diana Wynne Jones
Tanaqui doesn’t just tell her story, she weaves it — and changes her fate and that of her world in the process.

Miss Buncle in Miss Buncle’s Book by D.E. Stevenson
When Miss Buncle writes a novel about her neighbors, it becomes a bestseller but gets her into a bit of trouble.

Jeeves in the Jeeves and Wooster books by P.G. Wodehouse
Surely the world’s most well-read butler, he has a quotation for every occasion.

Jo in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
“Genius burns!”

Jocelyn in A City of Bells by Elizabeth Goudge
Every city needs a good bookshop, and when the charming cathedral city of Torminster decides Jocelyn is to run one, he has no chance of escape.

Lori in Aunt Dimity’s Death by Nancy Atherton
Lori has the surprise of her life when she learns that the Aunt Dimity of her mother’s bedtime stories is real — but that’s just the beginning.

Lord Peter and Harriet Vane in the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers
This highly-educated crime-solving couple gets engaged in Latin — you can’t get much more bookish than that.

Dunstan Ramsay in Fifth Business by Robertson Davies
In an extended letter to his Headmaster, schoolteacher and author reflects on the childhood events that shaped his life into a mythic journey.

Corinna in The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley
The writer of the Folk Record finds that her own story may be the most magical of all.

Top Ten Tuesday: All-time Favorite Authors

I couldn’t resist joining in with this week’s TTT after seeing some others’ lists. To help narrow mine down, I limited myself to authors who have written a fair number of books that I have read multiple times over many years and know that I will return to again. This eliminated some childhood favorites and some recent discoveries, as well as certain authors who have written just a few books that I really love — maybe a good subject for another list!

So here are ten of my all-time favorites, in approximate order of my discovering their books:

from The House of Arden by E. Nesbit

E. Nesbit
The magic of Nesbit never grows old.

Elizabeth Goudge
Obviously, since I’m about to devote a whole week to her work, I’m a fan!

Diana Wynne Jones
I also took a week to celebrate this dazzlingly imaginative fantasy author.

P.G. Wodehouse
For a reliable dose of laughter, I turn to Wodehouse.

Robertson Davies
Davies opened worlds to me through his rich imagination and encyclopedic knowledge.

Elizabeth Gaskell
Gaskell was unaccountably left out of my college English courses, but I’m making up for that now.

Jane Gardam
A contemporary author that I think will stand the test of time.

Willa Cather
Simply beautiful writing that doesn’t feel forced or contrived.

Terry Pratchett
It took me too long to discover this seriously funny writer.

Georgette Heyer
Impeccably constructed entertainments, far above the romantic fluff of her imitators.

Looking Forward and Back

A Janus coin

When I started blogging a year ago, I didn’t really have any particular goals in mind, other than to start posting and see what happened. Looking back, there are some things I’m really pleased with and would like to continue into 2015, and some things that I’d like to work on.

For more goals and resolutions from other bloggers, see this week’s links at Top Ten Tuesday.

Accomplishments in 2014

Kept to my intention of posting at least once a week, with a review every Friday.

Made a good start on my Classics Club list.

Read quite a lot of nonfiction books (for me anyway), and found many more that I want to read next year, thanks to Nonfiction November.

Joined in some great events, including Mary Stewart Reading Week and Willa Cather Reading Week, and hosted my own Witch Week. I’m looking forward to more of these, and plan to host an Elizabeth Goudge Reading Week in April as well as Witch Week II in October/November.

Sprung for a new blog design that I absolutely love.

Goals for 2015

Keep better track of what I’m reading, with notes at least on the title, author and date finished. I’m amazed by the detailed statistics some bloggers keep, but am not sure I’m up to that.

Do a monthly wrap-up post that includes books that didn’t get a full review, but are worth mentioning.

Request only ARCs that I know I will read — like many new bloggers, I got overexcited and now have quite a few review copies that I know I just will never get around to.

Read at least one book from all twelve categories in the Back to the Classics Challenge.

Read more from some genres that I neglected in 2014, including fantasy, children’s books and new releases.

. . . And just read more in general. I spend too much time looking for books to add to my list when I have plenty on there already! My personal “Put the Library on Hold” challenge in January (which anyone else is welcome to join) should help a bit with getting me to actually read books I already own.

What about you? What was your year like? What are you looking forward to in 2015?

Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten authors I own the most books from

Broke and Bookish meme
Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This was an interesting list to do. Although many favorite authors are missing either because they didn’t write so many books or because I don’t happen to own them, it does give a pretty good cross-section of my reading interests. I didn’t count multiple copies of the same book, otherwise Jane Austen would definitely be on there — but with only six novels she didn’t have a chance.

meme top ten authors

1. Diana Wynne Jones – 38
I don’t have all of DWJ’s novels, though I’m quite close. I’ve thought about letting go of some of my less-beloved volumes but it’s hard to resist the lure of completion.

2. Rudolf Steiner – 35 
Just a small fraction of Steiner’s astonishing output — mostly lectures that others transcribed and published. Not fiction, but a wealth of esoteric knowledge and guidance.

3. L. Frank Baum – 19
The complete Oz series is 14 volumes, plus I have Dover reprints of some of Baum’s other standalone stories.

4. Robertson Davies – 15
I actually reduced my collection in a book purge not long ago, which I’m now regretting. I still have all the twelve novels but I wish I had kept more of Davies’s witty and erudite criticism.

5. C.S. Lewis – 14
Children’s book series rack up the numbers quickly, with seven Chronicles of Narnia, plus the Space Trilogy and some nonfiction.

6. Andrew Lang – 12
Do editors count? This represents my complete set of the Rainbow Fairy Books.

7. Inez Haynes Irwin – 10
Another series — I inherited the Maida books from my mother and I’m keeping them for my child.

8. E. Nesbit -10
In a Folio Society sale years ago I snapped up sets of the Bastable books and the “Five Children” series, plus I have a smattering of others. I’d like to have more but nice editions are not that readily available.

9. George MacDonald – 9
My four-volume edition of MacDonald’s fairy tales, added to his five fantasy novels, makes a respectable showing.

10. Ursula K. LeGuin – 7
I’d like to increase this number — LeGuin has so many great books that I don’t own.