Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase
Pub. Date: February 9, 2015
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Putnam!!)
Summary: Ghosts are everywhere, not just the ghost of Momma in the woods, but ghosts of us too, what we used to be like in those long summers . . .

Amber Alton knows that the hours pass differently at Black Rabbit Hall, her London family’s country estate, where no two clocks read the same. Summers there are perfect, timeless. Not much ever happens. Until, of course, it does.

More than three decades later, Lorna is determined to be married within the grand, ivy-covered walls of Pencraw Hall, known as Black Rabbit Hall among the locals. But as she’s drawn deeper into the overgrown grounds, half-buried memories of her mother begin to surface and Lorna soon finds herself ensnared within the manor’s labyrinthine history, overcome with an insatiable need for answers about her own past and that of the once-happy family whose memory still haunts the estate.
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Gothic

Much like Beatriz Williams’s Along the Infinite Sea (which also happens to be from Putnam!) Black Rabbit Hall is a novel that I have no intention on ‘properly’ reviewing, since nothing I say could possibly do it justice. The only thing better than receiving one of your most highly anticipated releases is when that book goes so far above and beyond all expectations to the point where you can’t even mention it without jazz hands and excited hops.

Told in a dual narrative format (♥ my favorite ♥) Black Rabbit Hall explores the bonds between siblings, how whispers become legend, and how tragedy can turn a once-beloved childhood home into a nightmare. Twins Amber and Toby (he, the left side to her right) and their two younger siblings eagerly await the end of each school term, the start of their glorious summer holiday and return to the family’s country estate, Black Rabbit Hall. When tragedy strikes one stormy afternoon, however, the Altons’ world changes forever and the house they once loved now feels as though it’s closing in on them. The sprawling grounds and airy rooms seem to be contracting by the second.

Decades later the house, now succumbing to time and the elements, is little more than a pile of stone – and just as safe. In an attempt to gather funds for repairs, the now-elderly Mrs. Alton begrudgingly opens her gates as a wedding venue. Despite the drafty (okay, more like freezing) rooms and a ballroom roof that allows more rain in than it keeps out, Lorna knows this is the place. Ignoring her fiance’s protests, she insists they make the trip to the estate – there’s something about Black Rabbit Hall that’s just so familiar to her and her father’s roundabout answers aren’t helping matters.

Black Rabbit Hall is one of those books that’s So. Hard. for me to discuss in any coherent manner. Anything I type wants to come out bolded and in all caps with about a million exclamation points. That’s exactly what this novel did to me – it completely sucked me in, embraced me in its ivy-covered walls and held on tight. I’m so disappointed and frustrated that quotations from ARCs are frowned upon; not only is the story itself beautiful, but the writing is downright breathtaking. I’m floored that this is a debut (and can you possibly write something new right now, Ms. Chase please and thank you.)

When a novel is pitched as being for readers of Daphne du Maurier and Kate Morton and blurbed by a slew of authors (Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, Rowan Coleman, Katie Fforde, John Harwood, Wendy Webb, etc) you take note. With its mentions of a crumbling English estate, dark family secrets, forbidden love, and Gothic feel, I was immediately interested. Black Rabbit Hall is a book that has my name written all over it and not once did it let me down! Its only downfall was that it eventually came to an end.

While reading I lived and breathed these characters. From angry and confused Toby to little Barney and a stepmother seemingly ripped right from an ancient fairy tale, I fell hard for each and every one of them. And it wasn’t just the humans that made the story! No, Black Rabbit Hall itself came alive and, in some ways, was more of the central figure than Amber and Lorna.

I truly could wax poetic about this novel for days. I loved it, I lived and breathed it, I didn’t want to let go when it was over. Although it wasn’t as supernatural as I had expected, it is still easily a Top Read of the year for me and one I’ve been gushing over since reading it in November. Buy this book. Read it, devour it, and then come find me so we can flail and squeal over it together. Ms. Chase, you’re now on my radar and I absolutely cannot wait to see what you do next!

weekly wrap-up 2/7

↠ Aaaahhh today is my baby sister’s birthday! She’s 18! That’s absolutely mind-boggling to me! ♥ Happy birthday, Jo! Earlier in the week, on the 1st, my niece turned 7!!!

↠ There’s a bug going around my family and when my nieces were at my house earlier this week they left me a little present. :( :( :( :( (if this wrap-up seems a little too short and sweet, blame it on my fever, lost voice, and general feeling of crappiness)

↠ I only have to get through Thursday and then vacation! I’m taking off until March and I can’t wait! There are a few house things I want to tackle (we still have a few boxes we threw in the basement that I want to finally go through) but my big goal: weed out my closet. In our bedroom I have an amazing walk-in that I adore but it’s full of clothes I bought and then never wore.

↠ This week I finished two upcoming YA novels and the more I think about them, the more disappointed I get. Seven Ways We Lie sounded great at first (and y’all know I love me a cast of narrators!) but it seemed like the author wanted to try to fit in every ‘teen issue’ she could: abandonment, divorce, teacher/student relationship, drugs, sex, coming to terms with your sexuality (or asexuality in one character,) underage drinking (including being the supplier at school and an alcohol poisoning subplot,) sibling and family dynamic, social status, etc etc. It was just too much and none of it worked. Girl Last Seen could have been a great thriller: two youtube sensations have a falling out…and shortly after one of the girls goes missing. It was such a quick read (and, again, multiple POVs!) but toward the end there was a SEVERE detour into crazyville: there’s a rape subplot, one of the characters – the love interest, obvs – is a creepy stalker, there’s a poisoning, and the big reveal had me rolling my eyes. Bummer.

Missed something this week? I love older, backlist titles and this week I shared 5 recent additions to my TBR pile. I’m especially gaga over the Elizabeth Wein King Arthur series (and I ended up searching my library – they’ve got the entire series…maybe a binge-read over vacation??) I also reviewed Posie Graeme-Evans’s Wild Wood, a novel I really enjoyed despite misreading the summary!

Reliance, Illinois by Mary Volmer
1874. A 13-year-old girl is conned into pretending she’s her mother’s younger sister after her mother places an ad in a matrimonial paper (and conveniently forgets to mention Madelyn.) Naturally hurt and upset, Madelyn soon leaves and finds herself taken in by a suffragette and dealer of black market birth control. There’s also a Civil War veteran and an appearance by Mark Twain. I have a feeling this book and I will get along VERY well. Thank you, Mary!

Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
Magic, New York, soulless doppelganger, and Sarah Rees Brennan. That’s all I need to know about this one! Thank you, Clarion Books/HMH!

Annabel Lee by Mike Nappa
A girl’s uncle hides her deep underground in a military-style bunker. Above, the race begins to find her and answer some questions. This is the first in a new mystery series and it’s clearly paying homage to Poe (and you know how much I love him!) I only have one concern though and I’m hoping it’ll be fixed by the time the finished copies roll out: on the back cover, Poe’s name is spelled wrong. Eek! Thank you, Revell!

A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain
A rising FBI agent’s dreams are shattered when half of her team is murdered and a mole is discovered. Left to recover, she flees to England where she’s on a personal mission to hunt down and kill the man responsible. When a disastrous run-in has her seeking shelter, she turns to an abandoned stairwell…and finds herself in 1815 where she’s mistaken for a lady’s maid. I love thrillers, I love time travel. This seems like the perfect blend of the two and I’m very excited to sit down with this one! Thank you, Pegasus!

Left in the Wind by Ed Gray
A fictionalized journal from an actual Roanoke colonist?? YES PLEASE. Thank you, Pegasus!

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell
I have this weird quirk where I love reading retellings of classics I’ve never read. I have yet to read a single Jane Austen, yet I thought First Impressions was great! I’m beyond excited for Lyndsay Faye’s upcoming Jane Steele, a reimagining of Jane Eyre, and in my Wild Wood review I discussed being a total sucker for books pitched as being similar to Outlander (despite never actually reading the series.) The Madwoman Upstairs focuses on the Bronte family: a long-rumored secret estate sends the family’s only remaining member on a scavenger hunt. Thank you, Touchstone!

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip
I’ve been on a huge fantasy kick lately! This one had been on my To Read list for ages and I finally caved and requested a copy. A girl is 16 when a baby is brought to her to raise. Her entire life she’s only known magical creatures; she’s not quite sure what to do with another human. I really don’t know much about this one apart from cheesy 70s goodness and dragons but you can’t go wrong with McKillip!

Wild Wood by Posie Graeme-Evans

Wild Wood by Posie Graeme-Evans
Pub. Date: March 3, 2015
Source: Library
Summary: Jesse Marley calls herself a realist; she’s all about the here and now. But in the month before Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981 all her certainties are blown aside by events she cannot control. First she finds out she’s adopted. Then she’s run down by a motor bike. In a London hospital, unable to speak, she must use her left hand to write. But Jesse’s right-handed. And as if her fingers have a will of their own, she begins to draw places she’s never been, people from another time: a castle, a man in armor. And a woman’s face.

Rory Brandon, Jesse’s neurologist, is intrigued. Maybe his patient’s head trauma has brought out latent abilities. But wait. He knows the castle. He’s been there.

So begins an extraordinary journey across borders and beyond time, a chase that takes Jesse to Hundredfield, a Scottish stronghold built a thousand years ago by a brutal Norman warlord. What’s more, Jesse Marley holds the key to the castle’s secret and its sacred history. And Hundredfield, with its grim Keep, will help Jesse find her true lineage. But what does the legend of the Lady of the Forest have to do with her? That’s the question at the heart of Wild Wood. There are no accidents. There is only fate.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mythology

What does it say about me when I love books similar to Outlander but not the real deal? It’s not that I have anything against the series: I’ve watched a few episodes of the show and listened to a good deal of the audio before becoming overwhelmed by the length, but for some reason, the entire concept (Scotland! Time travel! Swoony romance!) just appeals to me. I was all about last year’s Avelynn, a debut YA pitched for fans of Outlander that took place during the Saxon/Viking wars. So, so good. Since then, I’ve given into comparisons when I’m normally put off by them; if something is dubbed as being the next Outlander, for fans of Outlander, etc. I’m there.

Wild Wood was one of those wonderful novels I discovered by chance. It’s the month before the grandest wedding of the century: Prince Charles will be getting married and Diana will become a princess straight out of a fairy tale. While Jesse is excited about the event it’s outweighed by a devastating blow: she’s adopted. And her late fall birthday? Turns out she was actually born in the summer. There’s a mother’s name listed on the birth certificate (Eva Green and little more than a child herself) but no father. Upset and feeling betrayed, Jesse leaves Australia for England, hoping to track down answers.

A run-in with a motorcycle only adds to Jesse’s problems. While recovering in the hospital, strange drawings begin appearing by her bedside. Drawings she knows she couldn’t have created (not only does she have zero artistic ability, but the accident left her right hand in a sling – she can barely write with her left hand, let alone draw a work of art!) Naturally she’s extremely confused, even more so when her doctor says he knows the castle she’s drawn.

Spurned on by curiosity and an aching need to actually be at Hundredfield, Jesse throws caution to the wind and agrees to the journey. Only this is one journey she didn’t quite expect.

First thing’s first: I completely misinterpreted the summary. I thought (and hoped) that somehow Jesse would be transported back in time to 1300 Scotland where Bayard’s story lies. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. She’s firmly rooted in 1981. While I was a bit bummed about that, it’s admittedly my own fault (though, still, swoony romance!!) The time travel aspect comes in the form of a legend: the Lady of the Forest, a beautiful woman who arrives when needed, doesn’t speak yet seduces a man and marries him, ultimately gives birth to a daughter and seemingly dies…only her body mysteriously vanishes shortly after. Bayard’s brother recently married a woman, the beautiful Flore, yet this union isn’t one met with cheers and well wishes. The townsfolk consider her a cursed being, making the sign of the Evil Eye when she’s not around. It’s Jesse unconsciously channeling her (or someone) that bridges these two worlds together.

Wild Wood is an incredibly engaging read, but also a very slow read. It took me 4 days to get through it’s 400-odd pages. It’s also the rare novel where I found myself enjoying – and preferring – one storyline over the other: Bayard’s tale was fascinating and I couldn’t wait to return to it. While I wish there would have been more of a time travel element (especially since it’s shelved as such on GoodReads) the expectation of one was completely my fault in not reading the summary properly. Posie Graeme-Evans is a new-to-me author and my introduction to her work couldn’t have been lovelier. Wild Wood is a novel to savor, to really sink into when it’s blistery cold outside and you’ve got a cozy blanket and hot cup of tea. Though slow going, I enjoyed it immensely and look forward to reading more of her books!

backlist bump: 5 recent additions to the TBR pile!

I love older books. Love them. (In fact, I might enjoy finding a good under-the-radar book a teensy bit more than buzzing over a new release!) There’s nothing like browsing through library or bookstore shelves and coming across a book slightly past its prime – I’ve discovered more than one favorite this way (remember my love for Glow?)

Here are 5 older titles I’ve recently come across and have added to my ever-growing TBR pile!

The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford | 2015

I guess a book that came out last year technically qualifies as an older title..? Katie recently brought this one to my attention and I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of it before! MARY SHELLEY and ADA LOVELACE are two girls who form a secret detective agency. UM YES PLEASE. There’s science and history – and obviously a killer dose of mystery – and it’s pitched as being for fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society and A Series of Unfortunate Events although I think it sounds pretty fantastic all on its own! Moonstone clearly gives some love to Wilkie Collins and the sequel, The Case of the Girl in Grey pays homage to his The Woman in White.

SEE ALSO: Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen | 2007

After a year or so of a slump, I’ve finally gotten back into the cozy mystery game – I’m sure you’ve noticed my recent obsessions with all things Agatha Christie! Her Royal Spyness is a series I’ve come across time and again and have always been curious: London, 1932. Lady Victoria is 34th in line for the throne and has recently fled Scotland and a terrible engagement and is now completely broke. She receives a summons from the Queen to spy on her son and a dead Frenchman winds up in the bathtub. There are currently ten books in this series and I think they sound like fun!

SEE ALSO: Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody

Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith | 2009

WWII-era fiction (and wartime novels in general) make my heart sing. Flygirl takes it a step further: In order to follow in her daddy’s footsteps and become a pilot, Ida Mae must make the decision on whether or not she wants to lie about her heritage and pass as white – the WASP will only accept white women into their training program. Does following her dreams of becoming a pilot and helping her brother in the Pacific mean denying who she is?

SEE ALSO: The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson

The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway | 2013

It seems that lately time travel has seen an uprising. I don’t know if it’s all due to Outlander‘s recent resurgence in popularity or what, but it’s here and I’m a fan! My current read (Wild Wood) has some time travel elements without going 100% in, but The River of No Return doesn’t play around: just as he is about to die on a Napoleonic battlefield, Lord Nicholas Falcott wakes up in the present day. There’s a secret fraternity of time travelers who break the disappointing news that he can’t go back and his beloved Julia will forever be in 1815. ..until the day comes when The Guild breaks the rules.

SEE ALSO: Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati (Jamie and Claire are actually mentioned in this one!)

The Winter Price by Elizabeth Wein | 1993

Yep, that Elizabeth Wein. Before the days of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, there was the Lion Hunters series, a five-book saga loosely based on King Arthur! The would-be heir loses the title of prince of Britain to his younger half-brother (a fragile, sickly boy who’s still afraid of the dark.) Jealous and angry, Medraut leaves his family to join the king’s sister in a powerful plot to take back the kingdom. But when it comes down to it, Medraut has to decide just where his allegiance truly lies. I’ve recently fallen hard for old school fantasy and I can definitely see myself binging on this series!

SEE ALSO: Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

What are some of YOUR favorite backlist titles? Have you recently discovered any hidden gems?? Let me know!

weekly wrap-up 1/31

↠ We’re in the middle of a heat wave! Today was in the 60s and I was driving around with the windows down. Can the rest of winter stay like this please and thank you ♥

↠ Earlier this week we had another #HistoricalFix chat – obvs I was using my mug that night! If you missed it, I compiled a list of the books mentioned and HOO BOY the recs were on fire! There were so many books we discussed that were new to me! Totally blaming y’all for my never-ending TBR piles! Our February chat will be 2/24 at 8:30 EST and will be our very first book club chat! AAHHH I still can’t believe that’s a real thing. We’ll be discussing Alyssa Palombo’s The Violinist of Venice and Alyssa will be chatting with us too!

↠ Did you hear about the NEW BEATRIX POTTER STORY that was recently discovered?!? It’s called The Tale of Kitty-in-Boots and will be published this fall! If that’s not exciting enough, QUENTIN BLAKE IS ILLUSTRATING IT!!!! BRB DYING

↠ Speaking of Quentin Blake, The Guardian posted this fun Which Roald Dahl Character are You? quiz. I got the BFG!

↠ I wouldn’t say I’m in a slump, but lately I just haven’t been able to get into any books. I’ve read some fantastic ones this month and have some ARCs I’m super excited for, but right now I’m feeling very blah. I’m currently reading Wild Wood, a time travely romance (??) that reminds me a lot of Outlander because the guy is in Scotland in the 1300s. I’m all about fluffy and swoony right now, so this is a-okay by me!

Missed something this week? I shared my unreviewed reads (aka LOTS of good ones + a new series I’m now hooked on…and a dud) and recapped January!


Grayling’s Song by Karen Cushman
NEW KAREN CUSHMAN NEW KAREN CUSHMAN!!! Does it even matter what the book is about?? NO but I already know it’ll be awesome: mothers who turn into trees, weather witches, a shape-shifting mouse who can talk. Yes, yes, and yes! Thank you, Clarion Books!

The Only Thing Worse Than Me is You by Lily Anderson
This one sounds very fandomy (Doctor Who, Firefly, comics, etc) so I’m expecting fantastic things! Trixie’s class rank has fallen to number four and she’s determined to knock Ben down a spot…until Trixie’s bestie starts dating Ben’s best friend. Suddenly she’s forced to play nice. A geeky, nerdy romance?? I am SO there! Thank you, St. Martin’s Griffin!

January 2016 recap!

Our pup loves the snow!
Um, there must be some mistake. There’s no way it’s the end of the month, right? RIGHT?? What. January flew but I’m not complaining since February = vacation!

It’s been a pretty quiet month on the blog but I have big things planned so that’s okay! Let’s take a look back on January:

SECRETS SHE KEPT BY CATHY GOHLKE: WWII, dual narrative, family secrets, a covered-up past. Secrets She Kept was practically a book written for me! Unfortunately, the second half of the novel couldn’t keep with the momentum of the beginning. I fully admit to being in the minority on this one though!

DOWNWARD FACING DEATH BY MICHELLE KELLY: aka when yoga ends in murder. This start to a new series was everything I wanted in a cozy: yoga, England, vegan recipes! It even includes breathing/meditation techniques (you’d need them too if you discovered a dead body in your yoga studio!)

A TASTE FOR NIGHTSHADE BY MARTINE BAILEY: 1700s England + a women hellbent on revenge. Another book that had my name written all over it! Sadly, it wasn’t nearly as engaging as I had hoped.

UNREVIEWED ROUNDUP: My love for Agatha Christie shines, I have another Kurt Vonnegut under my belt, Lyndsay Faye‘s historical mystery series has me hooked already, and a quirky Spanish romantic comedy!

COOKIES, NETFLIX, + BOOK CLUBS: a rundown of what’s been going on in my life. Christmas festivities, Netflix binges, a few treats I gave to myself, and more talk of the #HistoricalFix BOOK CLUB!!

OUR MEAT-FREE MONTH: A few months ago Matt challenged me to a month of no meat and we decided to do it in December. I really had a good time writing this post and thinking back on our month. At the end I mentioned I was still interested in continuing with vegetarianism – and so far I’ve stuck with it! There was a LOT of self-reflection going on here!

LEAH’S TOP READS OF 2015 (PART 2): My favorites from July – December. I read some good books last year; here’s looking at you, 2016!

3 LESSER-KNOWN POE STORIES: I’m a big Edgar Allan Poe fan and for his birthday I wanted to highlight a few short stories that aren’t as widely read.

2016: THE YEAR OF REALISTIC GOALS: I have some reading resolutions…and they’re pretty doable!


unreviewed roundup + giveaway!

Dead Man’s Folly by Agatha Christie | 1956
I ended 2015 with a Christie novel and began 2016 with one as well. If you’re new to Hercule Poirot (or Agatha Christie in general) I highly, highly recommend listening to the BBC Radio full cast dramatizations. So magnificently well done! Dead Man’s Folly tells the story of a murder mystery dinner organized by Ariadne Oliver, a crime writer. Just before the production is set to start, however, Ariadne calls on Hercule Poirot for some expert knowledge…as though she knew something vile and evil was going to happen.

If it’s not obvious by now, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I think the world of Agatha Christie and couldn’t have been more thrilled to ring in the new year with her. While I definitely love diving down deep into her novels, the audio is perfect for when I have an hour or two to spare.

Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie | 1941
Poor Hercule. All he wants is to take a nice holiday. At a resort off the coast of England a famous actress is discovered strangled to death and, naturally, there are numerous suspects: the man she was carrying on an affair with, the stepdaughter who hated her, the woman in love with her husband, the wife of the man she was seeing.

As much as I love these books, I think Evil Under the Sun just might be my favorite so far – I mean, how could I not love Hercule’s sass?? Such an excellent book with a reveal that I truly didn’t see coming! I tend to avoid rereading mysteries, but I honestly believe Agatha Christie is an author I’ll be coming back to again and again (and again..) for years to come.

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut | 1959
With just a few Vonnegut novels under my belt I’ve made the decision to finally read more of his work. The Sirens of Titan is about the richest man on Earth and a prophecy told by a space traveler. Vonnegut has his own brand of humor that I personally love and here he definitely steps up his game.

Only someone like Vonnegut could take a man stuck in space with his dog, three gorgeous aliens, a robot, a prophetic vision, and mind control and turn it into something that works and works remarkably well. Well I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this one to someone brand new to his novels, if you’ve already had a taste of his writing and are on the hunt for another book, The Sirens of Titan is just the one!

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye | March 15, 2012
Talk about perfect timing! Last week I received an incredibly amazing swag package for Faye’s upcoming Jane Steele – total coincidence that I was listening to Gotham on audio! It’s the 1840s and New York has just formed its first police force. Tensions are high in the Irish community and after losing everything in a massive block-wide fire, Timothy Wilde finds himself with a new position thanks to his older brother. As the newest recruit, Tim’s sent to patrol Five Points, home to the most notorious slum New York has to offer. His first big case comes in the form of a tiny – and bloodied – ten-year-old girl.

You know those books that seem to only received five stars and the highest of praise? The Gods of Gotham is one of those books and, naturally, I was a little skeptical at first. However, a few bloggers (and authors!) I trust lavished this one with love and wonderful reviews and, I have to admit, I was hooked right from the start. Though there was a little more drama to this than I had expected (it has more depth than your average police procedural!) I’m thrilled to say I’ve found a new series to obsess over! Also, the narrator is fantastic.

Love in Lowercase by Francesc Miralles | January 26, 2016
A big thank you to Penguin for this one! Already a bestseller in the author’s native Spain, Love in Lovercase is now available in English! It’s New Year’s Day and Samuel, a lonely professor, doesn’t have high hopes for the year to come. ..that is, until a stray cat wanders up to his door and refuses to leave. Mishima opens a world to Samuel that he never thought possible – and in doing so, brings a woman into his life that he fell in love with as a child decades ago.

While I wasn’t overly in love with this one (translation issue perhaps?) fans of The Rosie Project will be sure to find a new home in its pages. Excited for this one? Penguin is offering one lucky winner a copy! Simply fill out this form and I’ll announce the winner Sunday, January 31! Good luck!