Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books that gave me severe book hangovers

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is The Last Ten Books That Gave Me a Book Hangover.

Instead of the most recent 10, I thought I’d go with a mix of older and newer books that gave me HUGE book hangovers.

 

1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. Of course. This is a world I entered and never wanted to leave. And maybe that accounts for how many times I’ve reread the series!

2. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell: Another I’ve reread multiple times. And no matter how many times I read it, it still packs a punch.

3. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer: Don’t laugh!! It makes me cringe now, but thinking back to the early days of Twilight mania, as soon as I finished this book, I started it over again from the beginning, because I was on a trip, didn’t have New Moon with me, and couldn’t even think about reading anything else but this book, over and over again!

4. The Newsflesh series by Mira Grant: Honestly, I just could not get these books out of my mind. Once I started, I couldn’t stop until I’d read all the books and stories. Amazing!

5. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger: Another one that I had to start over from the beginning as soon as I finished reading it.

6. A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers: This book hasn’t even been released yet! It’s coming soon (early March — don’t miss out!), and I hope it’s a big success. I have not been able to get the story out of my head since finishing it. (Check out my review, if you’re interested!)

7. Our War by Craig DiLouie: Ooh boy, this book was devastating and disturbing, and with everything going on in our country these days, it’s no wonder that I find myself flashing back to scenes from this book.

8. The Pact by Jodi Picoult: This was the first book I ever read by Jodi Picoult, and it just about killed me. I couldn’t not shake this book off for a long, long time.

9. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: Man, this book made me ugly cry so hard. I’m still not over it.

10. All the Winters After by Seré Prince Halverson: I loved the characters, the setting, and the plot itself, and just wanted more and more when it was done.

What books have left you with book hangovers?

Please share your thoughts, and if you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!

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Book Review: The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, #2) by Philip Pullman

Title: The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, #2)
Author: Philip Pullman
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: October 3, 2019
Length: 641 pages
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Source: Purchased

⭐⭐⭐

It is twenty years since the events of La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One unfolded and saw the baby Lyra Belacqua begin her life-changing journey.

It is seven years since readers left Lyra and the love of her young life, Will Parry, on a park bench in Oxford’s Botanic Gardens at the end of the ground-breaking, bestselling His Dark Materials sequence.

Now, in The Secret Commonwealth, we meet Lyra Silvertongue. And she is no longer a child . . .

The second volume of Sir Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust sees Lyra, now twenty years old, and her daemon Pantalaimon, forced to navigate their relationship in a way they could never have imagined, and drawn into the complex and dangerous factions of a world that they had no idea existed.

Pulled along on his own journey too is Malcolm; once a boy with a boat and a mission to save a baby from the flood, now a man with a strong sense of duty and a desire to do what is right.

Theirs is a world at once familiar and extraordinary, and they must travel far beyond the edges of Oxford, across Europe and into Asia, in search for what is lost – a city haunted by daemons, a secret at the heart of a desert, and the mystery of the elusive Dust.

How to describe this long, strange book, set in the world of His Dark Materials?

The Secret Commonwealth is very much a middle book. It’s packed with details and characters, most of whom are people on a journey or quest. There’s a lot of travel from here to there… but we leave off before anyone actually arrives at their destinations.

In La Belle Sauvage, the installment in The Book of Dust that precedes The Secret Commonwealth, we see Lyra as an infant. She’s the object of hot pursuit by nefarious agents of the Magisterium, the ruling religious entity, and a person to be protected by an assortment of good guys and heroes, chief among them young Malcolm Polstead, an 11-year-old boy with unflinching bravery and a very steady canoe.

Here, we re-meet Lyra at age 20. She’s a student at St. Sophia’s, and still lives at Jordan College, the Oxford college where she’s been sheltered under rules of scholastic sanctuary since infancy. Lyra’s life is difficult as the story opens. Her comfortable home at Jordan is no longer a safe place for her, the money supporting her has run out, and shady characters are once again intent on tracking her down.

Closer to home, Lyra and her beloved daemon Pantalaimon are not getting along, which is a huge deal, considering that daemons are the external representation of a person’s soul. Daemon and human are two halves of one whole; neither is complete without the other. It’s almost beyond imagining that Lyra and Pan should be so estranged. Pan believes that Lyra has come too deeply under the influence of literary and scholarly works that prize only what’s real and can be seen, discounting completely the value or even existence of subtlety, imagination, and unseen forces and worlds.

Meanwhile, there’s a movement behind the scenes within the Magisterium to consolidate power even further, pushing toward total religious authoritarianism, leading to fear, civil unrest, and a growing flood of refugees throughout Europe. There’s also a quest by the Magisterium to root out a particular type of rose oil that’s believed to have certain properties that are considered threatening and heretical, and the efforts to wipe out all roses is being conducted by force.

As Lyra is forced into a quest across Europe and into the Eastern lands, she faces incredible danger and constant pursuit, meeting some allies and encountering enemies of all sorts. We also see events through Pan’s perspective, as well as accompanying Malcolm and others on their own strange and dangerous journeys.

It’s a little hard to figure out just who the intended audience of this book is. It’s clearly a youth-oriented book, based on the publisher and where it fits into the greater world of His Dark Materials, but this book is different. For starters, it’s the first novel in either series with no children as characters. Lyra, at age 20, is the youngest, and she’s truly a young woman and not a girl any longer.

More than that, though, is the tone and feel of the book. This book is DARK. Really bad things happen. This rarely feels like fantasy-level danger, with mystical forces or supernatural threats. The danger in The Secret Commonwealth is from people, and it’s awful. Lyra suffers through terrible ordeals, and so do many of the other characters in the book.

The pieces that are revealed about human/daemon connections and certain things that can happen (being deliberately vague here) are pretty horrible too, and are really startling in the context of the series as a whole.

Finally, the Lyra/Pan relationship and where it is in The Secret Commonwealth is heartbreaking and demoralizing. There’s really no ray of sunshine in this book whatsoever.

I suppose that the bleakness of the story is appropriate to the political conditions of Lyra’s world, but it makes for a pretty dismal reading experience. Philip Pullman is masterful as always, and I do love the world he’s created.

However, The Secret Commonwealth is so unrelentingly dark and full of misery that it’s hard to consider it an enjoyable read at all. After 600+ pages, it ends more or less on a cliffhanger, with all threads still to be resolved. The book is building toward something, and I hope the final book in the trilogy is successful in tying it all together and, hopefully, bringing back a little of Lyra’s fire and optimism.

I will absolutely want to read the 3rd and final book in The Book of Dust, and hope the conclusion will make all the suffering of the 2nd book worthwhile. Meanwhile, The Secret Commonwealth has left me feeling sad, upset, and worried about Lyra, and that’s not a fun way to be left hanging.

The Monday Check-In ~ 2/17/2020

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

Oh boy. This week was my husband’s turn to have surgery. It was a pre-planned orthopedic procedure, but still, I really need my family members (and myself) to stay out of the hospital for a good long while after this! Hubby is doing well, and I’m busy trying to keep him comfortable.

 

 

What did I read during the last week?

Two novellas (not reviewed):

  • Finna by Nino Cipri: A totally entertaining novella about wormholes opening up in an Ikea-like superstore.
  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee: Or, basically, further adventures with Monty and Percy as they attempt to consummate their relationship. Fun for fans of the main books in the series.

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales: A super cute teen love story about two boys who have a summer fling, then have to deal with the fall-out when they end up at the same high school in the fall. My review is here.

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski: Filling the hole left in my life after I finished my Netflix binge of The Witcher! The audiobook was terrific — my review is here.

Outlander, baby!

IT’S BACK! The season 5 premiere aired this past weekend, and I am completely delighted to be back on Fraser’s Ridge! As I’ve done during past seasons, I’ll be writing up my reactions after each episode. And here we go!

Episode 501, “The Fiery Cross” (aired 2/16/2020) – check out my thoughts here.

Fresh Catch:

Ooh. Look what e-novella just got released! I’ll be reading this as soon as I finish the big, huge novel currently in my hands.

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, #2) by Philip Pullman: Almost done!

Now playing via audiobook:

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs: There’s a new Mercy Thompson book coming out next month, which means now is the perfect time to revisit the last one via audiobook. I love these characters, and the narrator (Lorelei King) is terrific!

Ongoing reads:

The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon: The latest in Outlander Book Club’s group read-alongs. This is yet another terrific novella set in the wider world of the Outlander series. It’s a re-read for me, and I’m enjoying it all over again.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: Hoo boy, wish me luck! My book group’s newest classic read starts this week, and we’ve picked a big one! We’ll be reading and discussing two chapters per week. Book one of DQ should take us about six months!

So many books, so little time…

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Insta-Reaction: Outlander, Season 5, Episode 1

Season 5 is here! I’ll be writing an “Insta-Reaction” post for each episode soon after viewing, to share some initial thoughts, questions, reactions — you name it.

(And hurray! While the season officially starts tonight, Starz made the first episode available early!)

Warning:

Spoilers

I may be talking about events from this episode, other episodes, and/or the book series… so if you’d rather not know, now’s your chance to walk away!

Outlander, episode 501: “The Fiery Cross”

The official synopsis (via Starz):

Following celebrations in honor of Brianna and Roger’s wedding, Governor Tryon reminds Jamie of his obligation to hunt down and kill Murtagh Fitzgibbons.

My take:

Major plot points:

It’s Brianna and Roger’s wedding day!

  • Claire and Jamie help Brianna and Roger prepare for their wedding at Fraser’s Ridge.
  • Lots of familiar faces in the crowd, including Lord John, Governor Tryon, and Aunt Jocasta.
  • Tryon seems unhappy with Jamie.
  • Roger doesn’t particularly fit in in the 18th century.
  • Lots of couples seem to enjoy the wedding night!
  • Jamie calls upon the Scots of the Ridge to stand by him, when and if there’s a need to go to war.
  • Jamie puts on his kilt!!

Insta-reaction:

For Outlander, it’s a surprisingly happy season opener!

We start with a flashback to Scotland, as a much younger Murtagh finds young boy Jamie and tells him that his mother has died, but swears to follow and serve Jamie forever. It’s sad and sweet, and little Jamie is adorable.

But quick, it’s time for a wedding!

Claire and Brianna share a sweet moment together before the big event. Jamie and Roger’s scene is funny and a bit more tense. Jamie’s still not completely sold on Roger as husband material, and Roger is well aware that he is ill equipped for this time period. He’s a historian and a scholar. He can’t hunt or farm or shoot. Or even shave his own face, apparently.

Still, it’s very sweet to see Jamie’s emotions as he talks with Brianna before the ceremony, and even though he’d have preferred a Catholic priest, Jamie does give Brianna away, and he and Claire are both beaming by the time the wedding ceremony is over. Plus, they share a sweet flashback to their own wedding day, now over 20 years in their past.

Food and drink and music make for a good time, and it’s nothing but happy faces and lots of drunkenness all around. The day is marred for Brianna when she overhears Jamie and Lord John discussing the fact that Stephen Bonnet has been seen in North Carolina. Why can’t awful people die and stay dead?

Fergus and Marsali are adorable as always, and apparently, baby #3 is on the way!

Jamie and Claire spend a passionate night together, in between tending to baby Jem. Brianna and Roger have a romantic wedding night, after Roger serenades Brianna with L-O-V-E and his guitar, and while they do make love, Brianna appears to be troubled by the memories stirred up by thoughts of Stephen Bonnet. And there’s a third couple enjoying some wedding night sparks — Jocasta and Murtagh rendezvous in a shack in the woods. Murtagh is still a fugitive (whom Jamie’s supposed to be hunting down). Jocasta shares that Duncan Innes has asked her to marry him, clearly giving Murtagh a chance to declare himself. He doesn’t. Is this the end for Jocasta and Murtagh?

Next day, Jocasta confronts Roger about the parentage of wee Jem — quite intentionally — provoking him into an angry outburst in which he declares Jem to be his son. He goes back to Brianna and Jem and formally claims the baby as blood of his blood, bone of his bone.

Governor Tryon made clear to Jamie that he expects him to gather up a militia of Scots within a week, to serve the crown’s interests and specifically, to find the traitor Murtagh. Jamie decides that if it’s a Scot the Governor wants, it’s a Scot he’ll get. He takes out his precious kilt and puts it on for the first time in years… and looks pretty darn spectacular in it.

Lighting a giant cross made of straw, Jamie invokes the old worlds used by lairds in Scotland. The men of Fraser’s Ridge aren’t a clan and he’s not their chief, but he asks them for their fealty and to swear to stand by him when the time comes. He calls Roger to his side and calls him “Captain Mackenzie”, and Roger swears to Jamie alongside all the others.

Claire and Jamie gaze out over their land, yet another straw cross by their side.

Insta-reaction wrap-up:

Another season, another terrific new version of the theme song. The season 1 version will always hold a special place in my heart, but I’m liking this one too!

For once, it’s nice to start a season of Outlander without violence or bodily harm or terrible occurrences. While there were hints of tension and upcoming conflict, it was mostly a happy episode, and that was fine by me.

It was such fun to see the “big house”, still under construction but looking pretty impressive, especially seeing Claire’s new surgery, her thriving doctor business, and how she’s apparently attempted to explain the concept of bacteria and germs to Jamie.

I love seeing Jamie and Claire, a little older, a few more gray hairs, but still as passionately in love as always. In contrast, Brianna and Roger, while clearly in love, have a bumpy road ahead of them. Roger has already said something about “going back”, and Brianna didn’t look particularly enthused. Plus, with his lack of ability to fit in and be useful, and the fact that he’s a Presbyterian (gasp!), and Brianna’s PTSD, and the baby’s unknown paternity… well, let’s just say that they certainly won’t lack for drama.

Seeing Jamie release Murtagh from his vow and send him away so was sad… particularly seeing the tears falling down Jamie’s face as Murtagh walks away. Back in season 3, readers speculated that Murtagh would take over the role played by Duncan Innes in the book in regard to Jocasta, and it had appeared to be working out (more or less) that way… but now Duncan is around after all? Hmmm. Let’s see where this goes, shall we?

The Fiery Cross isn’t particularly my favorite book of the Outlander series, and while it’s super long, there are also long stretches where not that much happens. (After all, the first two hundred pages or so are devoted to a single day!). The show seems to be off to a good start in terms of consolidating storylines and keeping the action rolling along.

And furthermore…

It’s just so wonderful to be back in the world of Outlander! At this point, it’s like visiting family, seeing all the beloved faces — especially when the season opens with a joyous occasion. Outlander threw a wedding and we were all invited! So sweet.

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Audiobook Review: The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski

Title: The Last Wish
Author: Andrzej Sapkowski
Narrator: Peter Kenny
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: December 14, 2008 (originally published in 1997 in Poland)
Print length: 360 pages
Audio length: 10 hours, 17 minutes
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Geralt of Rivia is a witcher. A cunning sorcerer. A merciless assassin. And a cold-blooded killer. His sole purpose: to destroy the monsters that plague the world. But not everything monstrous-looking is evil and not everything fair is good… and in every fairy tale there is a grain of truth.

A collection of short stories introducing Geralt of Rivia, to be followed by the first novel in the actual series, The Blood of Elves. Note that, while The Last Wish was published after The Sword of Destiny, the stories contained in The Last Wish take place first chronologically, and many of the individual stories were published before The Sword of Destiny. 

For anyone who developed an instantaneous obsession for the Netflix series The Witcher (*raising my hand*), the story collection The Last Wish is an absolute must!

The Last Wish introduces Geralt of Rivia, a solitary man who travels from place to place earning money by fighting monsters on behalf of the humans who hire him. He’s a Witcher, member of a profession of highly trained, magically enhanced people who take on the monsters of the world through their power with spells and swords.

Geralt is gruff, sometimes mean, straightforward, and never afraid of a fight. He has a strict moral code, and uses it to set his own path, even when men of power tried to oppose him or sway him with threats or bribery.

The book is structured as connected tales of Geralt’s adventures, with a through-story between chapters, called “The Voice of Reason”, where we keep up with Geralt after a particularly nasty escapade. Through the interwoven stories, we learn about his past adventures and how he got to this point.

The six stories in The Last Wish seem to be rooted in various fairy tales, but with some pretty big twists and variations along the way. This isn’t too surprising — as Geralt points out, all stories start from a grain of truth.

For viewers of the Netflix series, most of these stories will be at least partially familiar. We see the story of Renfri and the battle at Blaviken — which, by the way, is really a version of a Snow White story, which I totally didn’t get from watching the TV series. There’s also the feast at Cintra where Pavetta’s potential marriage is at stake (a great scene in both the book and the series), a Beauty & the Beast-inspired tale, and the story of the striga.

And, obviously from the title, The Last Wish includes the story of Yennefer and Geralt’s first meeting and the role of the djinn, although in many ways it’s pretty different from the presentation on Netflix.

Overall, I loved this book. There are pieces I missed, like Yennefer’s entire origin story, but so much added detail and explanation of various elements that it all evens out. Also, the fall of Cintra and the introduction of Ciri are not included in this book, but will be important in later books, from what I understand.

Jaskier, the delightful bard on the TV series who is responsible for the ultimate earworm, Toss a Coin to Your Witcher, appears in the books as Dandelion (pronounced by the narrator not like the flower, but as danDElion, which makes it sounds pretty charming). He’s still a totally fun character, but of course, I missed the singing!

Regarding the narration, I got off to a difficult start with the audiobook. I typically listen to audiobooks at 1.25x speed, and it took me a chapter or two to really accept that that just wouldn’t work for me in this case. Between the narrator’s speaking patterns and the heavy accents and rather incomprehensible names of certain characters, I finally realized that I’d need to either slow down the listening speed or give up and switch to print.

Once I took the speed down to 1.0x (normal speed), most of my problems were resolved, and I was much better able to follow conversations and narration. I ended up loving some of the voices, particularly the narrator’s approach to Geralt himself.

Fantasy character names can be tricky, so I ended up having to refer to a print version anyway because it drove me a bit batty not to have a clear idea of how certain names might be spelled. Nivellen, Coodcoodak, Eist Tuirseach, Drogodar, Crach an Craite… see what I mean?

Reading the book made me even more impressed with the Netflix series, because it made me appreciate how well they wove together so many different storylines into one cohesive whole. In fact, now that I’ve finished this book, I may have to watch the series all over again to see what I missed the first time around!

The Last Wish was a really fun, enjoyable listen, and I will absolutely be continuing with The Witcher books, either in print or via audio. After all, what else am I supposed to do with my time between now and whenever season 2 comes around?

Book Review: Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

Title: Only Mostly Devastated
Author: Sophie Gonzales
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication date: March 3, 2020
Length: 288 pages
Genre: Young adult fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease

Summer love…gone so fast.

Ollie and Will were meant to be a summer fling—casual, fun, and done. But when Ollie’s aunt’s health takes a turn for the worse and his family decides to stay in North Carolina to take care of her, Ollie lets himself hope this fling can grow to something more. Dreams that are crushed when he sees Will at a school party and finds that the sweet and affectionate (and comfortably queer) guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High.

Will is more than a little shocked to see Ollie the evening of that first day of school. While his summer was spent being very much himself, back at school he’s simply known as one of the varsity basketball guys. Now Will is faced with the biggest challenge of his life: follow his heart and risk his friendships, or stay firmly in the closet and lose what he loves most.

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Summer loving happened so fast.
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Well, you know how it goes.

Two cute teens meet on their summer vacation, fall head over heels, say sad good-byes… and then end up attending the same high school in the fall.

But in Only Mostly Devastated, we’re not talking good girl Sandy and bad boy Danny. Instead, we have two adorable boys, Ollie and Will, who have a magical summer together. They should be thrilled to end up at the same school unexpectedly, right?

The problem is (and of course, there has to be a problem): Ollie is out; Will is not. And while Ollie came out to supportive parents and a chill circle of friends and school acquaintances back in California, Will grew up in more conservative North Carolina, where homophobic jokes are de rigeur for the cool jock crowd and their hangers-on.

When Ollie and his parents relocate to North Carolina to be near his terminally ill aunt and help with her children, he doesn’t really expect to run into Will without some effort. Not to mention that Will appears to have ghosted him right after their final summer good-bye kiss.

So when Ollie tells the group of girls who befriend him on his first day of school about his summer love — and shows them a picture — complications almost immediately crop up. Because of course, Will goes to the same school, and of course, the girls are thrown for a loop by this news that straight hot basketball star Will is maybe not so straight after all.

Ollie is sweet as can be, and it’s so sad and painful to go through all his emotions alongside him. He’s firmly out and will never accept a situation where’s he’s forced back in the closet — but he has to respect Will’s choice, even if it means accepting that Will has to pretend not to know Ollie, and can’t hang out with him too visibly for fear of being teased about turning gay.

The author does a great job of helping us (and Ollie) understand why Will might fear being outed, showing the social environment at school and the not-so-subtle pressure to conform, as well as the scorn reserved for those who don’t fall nicely into socially acceptable gender and relationship roles.

Meanwhile, Ollie forms close friendships with a trio of girls who seem to adore him and take him under their wings. They’re all interesting and varied, not just a generic crowd of high school girls but real people with distinct personalities and conflicts and challenges.

Ollie’s family life is also portrayed sensitively, and it’s quite sad to see Ollie processing his aunt’s decline while also being there for his two little cousins. As if Ollie wasn’t adorable and sweet enough already, he’s also a terrific babysitter and loves his family unconditionally, and it’s heartbreaking to witness his grief when the inevitable finally happens.

The cast of characters in Only Mostly Devastated is nicely diverse without making a big fuss over it, which I really appreciated. The romance at the heart of the story is so well done, and even though it’s almost too sad at times to see how hurt Ollie is, by the end, it feels like a realistic journey that the boys go through to get to where they end up. (Being vague here, so as not to spoil too much…)

If you enjoy sweet, sensitive young adult romances with well-earned happy endings, definitely check out Only Mostly Devastated!Save

Shelf Control #204: The Highland Witch by Susan Fletcher

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: The Highland Witch (original title: Corrag)
Author: Susan Fletcher
Published: 2010
Length: 368 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

The Massacre of Glencoe happened at 5am on 13th February 1692 when thirty-eight members of the Macdonald clan were killed by soldiers who had enjoyed the clan’s hospitality for the previous ten days. Many more died from exposure in the mountains. Fifty miles to the south Corrag is condemned for her involvement in the Massacre. She is imprisoned, accused of witchcraft and murder, and awaits her death. The era of witch-hunts is coming to an end – but Charles Leslie, an Irish propagandist and Jacobite, hears of the Massacre and, keen to publicise it, comes to the tollbooth to question her on the events of that night, and the weeks preceding it. Leslie seeks any information that will condemn the Protestant King William, rumoured to be involved in the massacre, and reinstate the Catholic James. Corrag agrees to talk to him so that the truth may be known about her involvement, and so that she may be less alone, in her final days. As she tells her story, Leslie questions his own beliefs and purpose – and a friendship develops between them that alters both their lives. In Corrag, Susan Fletcher tells us the story of an epic historic event, of the difference a single heart can make – and how deep and lasting relationships that can come from the most unlikely places.

How and when I got it:

I’ve had this book on my shelf for at least five years, and I’m pretty sure I received it from a book group friend during one of our annual book swaps.

Why I want to read it:

Basically, put the word Highland in a title, and throw in the word witch as well… and I’m sold! I’m always on the lookout for good historical fiction set in Scotland, and this one sounds terrific! 

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Top Ten Tuesday: It’s all above LOVE… My ten favorite love stories from this past year of reading.

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Love Freebie, which means we all put our own spin on the topic of LOVE.

I thought I’d keep it simple, and highlight my ten favorite love stories that I read in the past year:

1. Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory: A love story where the main characters are in their 50s and HOT? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

2. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: Sticking with the royal theme — just such an adorable story.

3. The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary: A super cute set-up with great follow-through.

4. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Just breathtaking.

5. The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire. Okay, technically not a love story… but this urban fantasy series includes one of my favorite fictional couples, Toby and Tybalt, so it counts!

6. The Dinner List by Rebecca Searle: This is another that’s not an obvious choice, but there is a love story at the heart of this unusual novel, and its power grows over the course of the book.

7. Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy: Yes, true, this also isn’t a love story exactly… but this outstanding prequel to Anne of Green Gables features a truly poignant, sad tale of unfulfilled love that absolutely broke my heart.

8. Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Henry: I know many fans of this author duo didn’t adore this book, but I did! I thought it was sweet and charming and just right for me.

9. The Summer series by Jenny Han: Not quite as wonderful as the Lara Jean books, but still sweet and touching.

10. Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center: Powerful and moving.

There you have it! But enough about me… What were the best love stories you read during the past year?

If you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link and let me know your topic!

And PS – Happy (early) Valentine’s Day!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 2/10/2020

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

Life.

My husband and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary this past weekend! What can I say? Not only is he kind, generous, funny, and sweet, but he also loves to read!

 

What did I read during the last week?

The Wicked King and The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black: I finished the Folk of the Air trilogy this week, and loved it! My review of books 2 & 3 is here.

A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers: I loved this book! My review is here.

Pop culture:

I finally got back to Gilmore Girls! After a rather long hiatus, I finished season 3 and started season 4. And while there’s so much else on TV and streaming these days, I’m just enjoying this show so much that I’d rather spend with Lorelei and Rory than catch up on the shows piling up on my DVR.

Fresh Catch:

I’m so excited for Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey! The book arrived this week, and the author is having an event at my favorite bookstore in a few days, so I’m hoping the stars align and I can manage to get there.

I also treated myself to this three-in-one volume by Holly Black (which includes the novels Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside). Now that I’ve finished the Folk of the Air trilogy, I need more of this author’s faerie stories!

What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:

Finna by Nino Cipri: Just getting started!

Now playing via audiobook:

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski: I’m almost done! I struggled a bit at the beginning, but once I slowed down my listening speed, I ended up really enjoying this audiobook. And it’s so great to indulge my Witcher obsession!

Ongoing reads:

The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon: The latest in Outlander Book Club’s group read-alongs. This is yet another terrific novella set in the wider world of the Outlander series. It’s a re-read for me, and I’m enjoying it all over again.

So many books, so little time…

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Book Review: A Witch in Time by Constance Sayers

Title: A Witch in Time
Author: Constance Sayers
Publisher: Redhook
Publication date: February 11, 2020
Length: 448 pages
Genre: Fantasy/historical fiction
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A young witch is cursed to relive a doomed love affair through many lifetimes, as both troubled muse and frustrated artist, in this haunting debut novel.

In 1895, sixteen-year-old Juliet LaCompte has a passionate, doomed romance with the married Parisian painter Auguste Marchant. When her mother — a witch — attempts to cast a curse on Marchant, she unwittingly summons a demon, binding her daughter to both the artist and this supernatural being for all time. Juliet is fated to re-live her affair and die tragically young lifetime after lifetime as the star-crossed lovers reincarnate through history.

The demon — who appears to Juliet in all her reincarnations as a mysterious, handsome, and worldly benefactor — has been helplessly in love with her since 19th century France, even though she forgets him each time she dies. He falls for her in 1930s Hollywood, in 1970s Los Angeles, and finally in present-day Washington D.C. — where she begins to develop powers of her own.

In this life, she starts to remember her tragic past lives. But this time, she might have the power to break the cycle…

A Witch in Time is perfect for fans of A Secret History of WitchesOutlander, and The Time Traveler’s Wife.

A Witch in Time is a haunting story of doomed, enduring love. It’s mesmerizing and otherworldly, yet also very much grounded in the here and now.

As the story opens, we meet Helen Lambert, a successful media professional in her mid-30s, recently divorced from a mover and shaker in the museum world, cautiously stepping back into the dating world. But the man she’s set up with on a blind date is both strange and familiar. There’s something about Luke Varner that resonates with Helen. He implies that they’ve met before — in fact, that they share a history. Strangest of all, he takes her to a gallery in her ex’s museum and shows her a 19th century painting of a young girl who looks startlingly similar to Helen.

Helen begins to have vivid dreams of another life, in which she appears as young Juliet LaCompte, a French farm girl in love with the suave painter who lives next door. For Helen, it’s as if she’s living these moments, not just dreaming them. And when she wakes up, she knows that what she’s experienced is true.

As the days and weeks go by, Helen’s connection to Luke is revealed and her entanglement with Juliet and other women across time slowly comes to light through her vivid dreams. As Helen discovers, she, Luke and the artist Juliet once loved are doomed to repeat their patterns time and time again, for eternity — living out a curse placed in anger by an inexperienced witch, condemning them all to a hopeless cycle.

Oh, this book is captivating! I fell in love with the strange lives revealed to Helen through her dreams — 1890s Paris, 1930s Hollywood, 1970s Taos. In each, Helen (or Juliet) takes on a slightly different life, but there are elements that are consistent from lifetime to lifetime. And through these varied lives, Luke remains a constant, there to protect Helen and her predecessors over and over again… but also to love them.

The mood of the book is lush and dreamy. So much happens, and it takes a leap of faith to just go with the story and allow it to unfold at its own pace. And trust me, it’s worth it! The author gives us historical set-pieces that are atmospheric and convey the feel of the their different periods so well. She also manages to connect the dots between Juliet/Helen’s different personas, so that even though we meet four very different women (and their four very different love obsessions), the common threads are very visible as well.

Despite being over 400 pages in length, A Witch in Time goes by very quickly. I simply couldn’t put it down, and didn’t want to! I was very caught up in the story of recurring love and recurring tragedy, and felt incredibly breathless waiting for each new life’s particular patterns to unfold.

Absolutely a must-read! Don’t miss this one.

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