Blood of Elves by Andrzej Sapkowski Review

The book begins two years after the war with Nilfgaard, Geralt has been keeping a very low profile and keeping Ciri safe. Yennefer and Dandelion haven’t set eyes on him during this time. They are all in trouble because they know what most of the world does not, that Ciri is still alive. She is important, dangerous people are looking for her. Dandelion was captured and tortured, he would have died had Yennefer not come to his aid. I was immediately drawn in at the beginning, it’s very atmospheric and I felt that the whole way through, the writing is much more detailed than the collection of short stories that come before it, I like this style much more.

“The Time of Contempt will come, when the trees lose its leaves, the bud will wither, the fruit will rot, the seed turn bitter and the river valleys will run with ice instead of water. The White Chill will come, and after it the White Light, and the world will perish beneath blizzards.”

I was very excited because we got to see the ruined castle that the witchers call home. There aren’t many of them left after a terrible massacre that happened at the castle long ago. But it was nice to see Geralt almost settled. The group quite often spend their winters together at the ruined castle.

Ciri isn’t able to control her powers yet, she can predict things and almost read people’s minds. But doesn’t remember her visions afterwards. The prophecies she recalls are terrifying and dark, Ciri goes into a trance when she tells them, the witchers discovered her power by accident and didn’t know what to do to help her.

“Death has cold blue eyes, and the height of the obelisk does not matter, nor does the writing engraved on it matter.”

I love how the book shows us that living for hundreds of years is not necessarily a good thing. The sorcerers and witchers are all low-key miserable or feel nothing anymore.

We don’t see a lot of Geralt in the first couple of chapters, it focuses on Ciri and her training with the Witchers. Same with the last couple of chapters where Ciri trains with the magicians instead. I did really enjoy seeing Ciri and Yennefer’s relationship develop. Yennefer is trying to teach her how to channel her magic. It’s nice seeing her in a caring role.

“A witcher doesn’t use light or fire as a weapon because it makes it harder to see. Every light creates a shadow and shadows make it harder to get your bearings. One must always fight in darkness, by moon or starlight.”

War and destruction follow both Ciri and Geralt. They can’t escape the fighting. A man is trying to hunt them down for his own gain, somehow he knows Ciri is alive and about her powers. The man has also crossed Yennefer before and has a burn on his face to show for it.

“The tactic of terror. Violence breeds violence. Hatred has grown into hearts and has poisoned kindred blood. Hard times are upon us.”

The jumps to different characters were slightly confusing towards the end because I didn’t know who anyone else was, but I figured it out eventually!

“Magic is Chaos, Art and Science. It is a curse, a blessing and progress. It all depends on who uses magic, how they use it, and to what purpose.”

The book leaves us on a cliffhanger, war again threatens the land as well as the end of everything, the dark prophecy that haunts them all. I’m very excited to read the next book.

Sword of Destiny by Andrzej Sapkowski Review

This book is another prequel to the main Witcher series, similar to The Last Wish it’s a collection of short stories following Geralt’s adventures.

The Bounds of Reason: This story was my favourite from the first season of The Witcher so I was excited to read it. Geralt is asked to join an expedition to follow a dragon. Geralt makes it clear that he will not hurt the creature. We get to see much more of Geralt and Yennefer’s relationship, they are no longer a couple and Yennefer is still furious with him. Dandelion is also part of the party, he makes me laugh so much! Most of the other people on the expedition want to kill the dragon for its treasure. I love the reveal at the end of the story and how once again Geralt is more moral and kind than the humans that hold him in such disregard.

“If dragons didn’t have treasure hoards, not a soul would be interested in them; and certainly not sourcerers.”

A Shard of Ice: The beginning sees Geralt and Yennefer living together in bliss, it’s really sweet. Geralt goes out to fight the monsters in the city and when he comes back Yennefer makes sure he isn’t severely injured, the elixir he has to take to get into fight mode means Geralt can’t feel anything until they wear off which could be too late. It’s a miracle he’s lasted this long without a person to look out for him. A rival for Yennefer’s affections tells Geralt that witchers can’t feel any emotions but I don’t think that’s true, maybe I’m projecting but I think Geralt does feel things. He cares about Yennefer and Dandelion as well as the people he protects. The ending to this one annoyed me and I’m not keen on the way Yennefer acts in this one.

“Truth is a shard of ice.”

Eternal Flame: Geralt and Dandelion find themselves up against a shape changer in a busy city. The Temple of Eternal Flame has an issue with the monster that is loose in their city, according to their beliefs, no monster can come close to their temples but it appears they were wrong. The head of the temple asks Geralt to rid them of the monster despite preaching that it doesn’t exist, if Geralt refuses they could end up in the dungeons or worse. Once again Geralt fights to protect the ‘monster’ they haven’t harmed anyone so why would he want to kill them? He has a conscience, he’s not a cold-blooded killer.

A Little Sacrifice: A reverse of the Little Mermaid where the mermaid refuses to become human but suggests the Duke who is in love with her becomes a merman instead, she’s frustrated that he expects her to make a sacrifice for him but won’t consider changing himself. The morale is of course that you shouldn’t have to change yourself for anyone. Geralt is then sent out to find a sea monster who consumed an entire ship’s crew. But witchers were not made to tackle sea creatures, they were made to clear the land of monsters, a very different skill set is needed.

The Sword of Destiny: Destiny is definitely the theme of this story! Geralt meets Ciri in some strange woods which are full of danger, only dryads can make their way safely through them, they live secluded from society and I think they have some magical powers, I low-key want to be them. Geralt is accompanied by a dryad to help him through and they save Ciri from a creepy snake-like monster. Geralt doesn’t realise that Ciri is his destiny until the dryads show him the truth. The reason Geralt pushes everyone away is because he thinks he’s going to get them hurt, his life is filled of endless dangerous situations, it makes me sad!

The only thing that everyone is destined for is death. Death is the other blade of the two-edged sword.

Something More: At the beginning Geralt was severely injured and had a fever dream where he remembered Yennefer told him to go to Cintra and find his destiny. In another memory Geralt meets with Queen Calanthe to tell her that he doesn’t want to take the child away from her, Geralt assumes it’s a boy but we know he’s wrong while Calanthe had assumed Geralt would want to turn the child into a witcher. There’s no way Geralt would put anyone through the horrible torture he had to endure to gain his powers. War is approaching and Geralt needs to act if he’s going to find Ciri and fulfill their destiny. This one had a beautiful and emotional ending, I’m really excited to get to the main series.

“The circle is closing, the snake is sinking its teeth into its own tail. That is how it must be.”

I think I enjoyed the first collection of stories a bit better. We saw a lot more of Geralt and Yennefer in this book and I’m not keen on their dynamic. All these stories are guiding us towards Blood of Elves, they’re more connected and centred around destiny, I think it’s set up the story really well, we get a real sense of Geralt’s character and his ties to the other main characters, I’m really looking forward to the next book!

The Last Wish by Andrzej Sapkowski Review

This is a collection of short stories following Geralt, our Witcher, on his adventures before the events of Blood of Elves.

The stories have a few dark fairytale elements, A Grain of Truth reminded me of Beauty and the Beast. A vile highwayman was cursed and lived alone as a beast in his mansion, he gained some magical abilities and could summon food from the kitchens without having to lift a finger. One day a merchant stumbled upon the beast and traded his daughter for a year with the beast in exchange for money and jewels. Soon other men found out about the arrangement and the beast was hardly alone. Geralt came across the beast when he found bodies in a wood nearby, it turns out there was something far more dangerous living in the house.

“There was something strange in Renfri’s voice…something associated with the red reflection of fire on blades, the wailing of people being murdered, the whinnying of horses and the smell of blood.”

In The Lesser Evil, Geralt finds an old acquaintance, a wizard who has become obsessed with an old myth that says any women born on the day of an eclipse has been sent by the devil to kill. For years some mad wizards have been hunting down these women and keeping them in towers (Rapunzel vibes). There’s also mention of a queen asking their mirror to predict the future and bring about the downfall of her stepdaughter. I think this was my favourite story.

“I know my fate whirls about me like water in a weir. It’s hard on my heels, following my tracks, but I never look back.”

Geralt’s moral compass is better than everyone around him, he was made to kill but he doesn’t enjoy it. He kills monsters if he has to and for money. If he can he will try to reverse spells and save as many people as he can. But people are scared of him, they shun him. He still has humour and his horse Roach though!

“People like to invent monsters and monstrosities. Then they seem less monstrous themselves.”

Queen Calanthe is so cool, I want to be her. She refuses to marry again after her husband dies because she doesn’t want to give up her power, fight the Patriarchy!!

“So I, a poor witcher, am to face down a destiny which is stronger than the royal will. A witcher fighting destiny! What irony!”

Yennefer is only in The Last Wish and she comes across as very fierce and forceful, her relationship with Geralt is important, they are bound together but they’re both low-key messes so it’s no wonder they fight a lot. Dandilion is also in this story as well as The Edge of the World. He makes me laugh, I love his and Geralt’s relationship, they both get on each other’s nerves but still care about each other.

I’m very excited to read Sword of Destiny which is another set of short stories, then it’ll be the main series!

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson Review

Blurb: Jackson Brodie has relocated to a quiet seaside village in North Yorkshire, in the occasional company of his recalcitrant teenage son Nathan and ageing Labrador Dido, both at the discretion of his former partner Julia. It’s a picturesque setting, but there’s something darker lurking behind the scenes. Jackson’s current job, gathering proof of an unfaithful husband for his suspicious wife, seems straightforward, but a chance encounter with a desperate man on a crumbling cliff leads him into a sinister network-and back into the path of someone from his past. Old secrets and new lies intersect in this breathtaking new novel, both sharply funny and achingly sad, by one of the most dazzling and surprising writers at work today.

It’s a slow burn to start with but I don’t mind that, I like getting to know the characters and starting to see where the connections are but I was always aware that something bigger was coming.

“It was funny how so many men were defined by their downfall. Women hardly ever. They didn’t fall down. They stood up.”

One of Kate Atkinson’s strengths is her characters and making them feel real, no matter how often they appear, every character is detailed and has life in them.

“His life had been a litany of disasters. What if he was already on his ninth life? The last go round. Perhaps he should be more cautious.”

Jackson’s sarcasm and pessimistic view of the world is the main reason I connect so well to his character. I also really connected with Reggie and Ronnie the two detectives that were assigned to investigate potential leads in an old case. They’re witty and determined and some of their quotes just spoke to me.

“Reggie sometimes wondered if a day would ever go by when she wasn’t disappointed in people.” – such a mood

Everything is cleverly wound together and as usual Jackson finds himself in the middle trying to put all the pieces together. I enjoyed all the references to the older books in the series but you don’t have to have read them to get into this book.

“Reggie was twenty-six, but she didn’t think that she had ever been the right age.”

I really enjoyed this book, I love a good mystery and trying to work things out for myself! I will always love everything that Kate Atkinson writes, she is brilliant no matter what the genre.

The Girl Who Lived Twice by David Lagercrantz

“I will be the hunter not the hunted.” – Lisbeth

Following on from the last book in the series, Lisbeth is still trying to track her sister’s movements while staying hidden herself. She ends up in Russia and has managed to hack in to cameras around Camilla’s house. Meanwhile back in Sweden Mikael is working on his story about the stock market crash. But he’s bored and uninspired, he can’t find an answer to his questions so he decides to take a break. But because he Mikael Blomkvist, he gets dragged into a mystery anyway. A homeless man died but a doctor who had seen the man often suspects fowl play. The man kept to himself and as far as she could tell there was no reason to murder him.

I realised how much I had missed Lisbeth and Mikael when I started reading this. They’re both so determined and intelligent yet chaotic, I forgot how fascinating they are. Lisbeth hasn’t told anyone where she is or what she’s up to, she works well on her own but Mikael is really worried about her, he’s searching for signs of her everywhere.

“He was fed up with it. He was tired of the news in general, tired of all the depressing political developments around the world.” – what a mood!

I felt like we’re back at what this series does best, we have a mystery, it’s possibly political but none of the pieces fit together. Lisbeth and Mikael make a brilliant team even though they’re not together. The jumps from one character to the next are seamless, it’s not confusing or difficult to follow and it keeps a nice pace to the book. It becomes incredibly tense and dramatic as the story goes on.

I like how a few times the story touched on the damaging effects the media can have. The hate campaign towards Johannes and Catrin’s dealings with negative reactions to her journalism. Social media has become this terrifying place where horrible people can sit safely behind a screen and tear down others for fun. It needs to stop.

I am so sad that this is the last book in the series, I will miss Lisbeth and Mikael a lot! The tension and action towards the end is so dramatic, I couldn’t put the book down. The whole series has shone a light on how dangerous our world is, there are secret threats everywhere when it comes to governments and spies. How much can we really trust our leaders? My bet is not at all! But there are still good people like Lisbeth and Mikael, Bublanski and Sonja who give us hope.

The Familiars by Stacey Halls Review

The Familiars is set in 1611-1612, Fleetwood is a young noblewoman, she has had multiple pregnancies but none of them have gone to term. She has recently discovered a letter from her doctor to her husband stating that another pregnancy may kill her. Yet she is pregnant again, Richard didn’t care, he would rather have an heir. Fleetwood is desperate to find help, she meets a young midwife, Alice, by chance and their lives become intertwined. When Alice is accused of being a witch Fleetwood tries desperately to save her, it could mean a death sentence for all of them if Alice isn’t there to help with the birth.

“Women carried life and death in their stomachs when they conceived; it was a fact of our existence.”

Fleetwood is treated awfully by her husband, he knows that another pregnancy would kill her but he chose not to tell her and is still obsessed with having a child. Then he ignores her worries and tries to control everything. However there is an air of mystery in the story that makes me eager to read more.

The king is not a supporter of women trying to make their way in the world any way they can: helping neighbours, and driving off sickness, and trying to keep their children alive.” – Alice

I love that Fleetwood and Alice team up to run away from the witch hunters. It makes me shudder to think what women went through during James I’s reign. The treatment of women in this age makes me so angry.

Fleetwood’s sass knows no bounds! I was so proud of her when she was investigating and trying to save Alice. She is an absolute badass, she’s riding around the countryside, heavily pregnant, threatening people who are lying about Alice. She’s determined and brave in a society that constantly puts women down or tries to kill them.

“The realisation was lapping at my edges again, the knowledge that without Alice, I may as well have a rope tied too.

This book is very well written, Fleetwood’s feelings and pain are so vivid that I felt everything with her. I wanted so desperately for her to succeed and survive along with Alice. I strongly recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and anyone who loves strong female characters.

Circe by Madeline Miller Review

“You cannot know how frightened gods are of pain. There is nothing more foreign to them, and so nothing they ache more deeply to see.”

Circe is a story of fierce strength, loneliness, rejection, a mother’s love and a woman who fought against the bullies around her and succeeded, all of this is tied into the Greek myths, we meet some of the gods and goddesses but my favourite parts were with Circe when she was on her island, fighting to keep her child safe and standing up to the people who had tried to belittle her.

“For a hundred generations, I had walked the world drowsy and dull, idle and at my ease. I left no prints, I did no deeds. Even those who had loved me a little did not care to stay. Then I learned that I could bend the world to my will, as a bow is bent for an arrow.”

I was so excited when Circe found out she is a witch. She had been scorned and bullied her whole life and now she had power and a purpose. I love the style of writing, it’s almost poetic, that’s why I have so many favourite quotes!

“In a solitary life there are rare moments when another soul dips near yours, as stars once a year brush the earth. Such a constellation was he to me.”

Circe is fierce and powerful but she still has compassion. She cares about her animals and the mortals she endangered by creating a monster. But when Circe was attacked by some sailors she started murdering all the horrible men that invaded her island, honestly what a mood.

“Humbling women seems to me a chief pastime of poets. As if there can be no story unless we crawl and weep.”

I love how the book shows that just because you’re alone doesn’t mean you have to be lonely. I prefer my own company a lot of the time, and when Circe is at peace on her island so does she, she has her pet lions and it suits her well. But because Circe is immortal she faces an eternity alone which I’m not sure I could cope with!

“The air would smell like buttery olives and iron. I would speak her name and the sky would glow bright as polished silver.”

I was very emotional at the end, I loved everything about this book, I highly recommend it, you don’t have to know about Greek myths to enjoy it.

“I thought once that gods are the opposite of death, but I see now they are more dead than anything, for they are unchanging, and can hold nothing in their hands.”

Books I Read During Lockdown

Here in Britain we were in lockdown from the end of March and this week I went back to work, so I thought I would list the books I read during lockdown and give them all a rating. All the books I read were a great escape from reality and I loved sitting outside in the sunshine with them.

50095371. sx318 sy475 The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans – 4/5 Stars

Blurb: Nightingale House, 1919. Liddy Horner discovers her husband, the world-famous artist Sir Edward Horner, burning his best-known painting The Garden of Lost and Found days before his sudden death.
Nightingale House was the Horner family’s beloved home – a gem of design created to inspire happiness – and it was here Ned painted ‘The Garden of Lost and Found’, capturing his children on a perfect day, playing in the rambling Eden he and Liddy made for them.
One magical moment. Before it all came tumbling down…
When Ned and Liddy’s great-granddaughter Juliet is sent the key to Nightingale House, she opens the door onto a forgotten world. The house holds its mysteries close but she is in search of answers. For who would choose to destroy what they love most? Whether Ned’s masterpiece – or, in Juliet’s case, her own children’s happiness.
Something shattered this corner of paradise. But what?

I read the end of this during the first week of lockdown. It’s perfect for anyone who loves historical fiction. My full review is here.

11735456A Feast For Crows by George R.R. Martin – 5/5 Stars

Blurb: The war in the Seven Kingdoms has burned itself out, but in its bitter aftermath new conflicts spark to life. The Martells of Dorne and the Starks of Winterfell seek vengeance for their dead. Euron Crow’s Eye, as black a pirate as ever raised a sail, returns from the smoking ruins of Valyria to claim the Iron Isles.

From the icy north, where Others threaten the Wall, apprentice Maester Samwell Tarly brings a mysterious babe in arms to the Citadel. As plots, intrigue and battle threaten to engulf Westeros, victory will go to the men and women possessed of the coldest steel and the coldest hearts.

I love this book so much, it’s my favourite in ASOIAF so far. Nearly all of my favourites have POV chapters and it’s incredibly dramatic.

27245960The Virgin’s War by Laura Andersen – 4/5 Stars

Blurb: It’s 1585, and the balance of European power is tilting dangerously toward war. It will take all of Elizabeth Tudor’s skill and wiles to defend England from the looming threat of the Spanish Armada.

Complicating matters is Elizabeth’s beloved daughter—the result of the Queen’s tempestuous marriage with her worst enemy: King Philip of Spain.

As Elizabeth commits her riches, her honor, and her people to the coming war, the Queen will risk everything—even her own life—to preserve England’s freedom.

This was a great finale to the Tudor Legacy trilogy. I still miss the characters now! My full review is here.

17452179Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty (Audiobook) – 3/5 Stars

Blurb: Yvonne Carmichael sits in the witness box. The charge is murder. Before all of this, she was happily married, a successful scientist, a mother of two. Now she’s a suspect, squirming under fluorescent lights and the penetrating gaze of the alleged accomplice who’s sitting across from her, watching: a man who’s also her lover. As Yvonne faces hostile questioning, she must piece together the story of her affair with this unnamed figure who has charmed and haunted her. This is a tale of sexual intrigue, ruthless urges, and danger, which has blindsided her from a seemingly innocuous angle. Here in the courtroom, everything hinges on one night in a dark alley called Apple Tree Yard.

The book was gripping because it started with a court case but we didn’t know what crime had been committed. Then it flashed back through the characters lives. I enjoyed it but it did drag slightly in the middle.

13337715A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin – 4.5 Stars

Blurb: In the aftermath of a colossal battle, new threats are emerging from every direction.

Tyrion Lannister, having killed his father, and wrongfully accused of killing his nephew, King Joffrey, has escaped from King’s Landing with a price on his head.

To the north lies the great Wall of ice and stone – a structure only as strong as those guarding it. Eddard Stark’s bastard son Jon Snow has been elected 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. But Jon has enemies both inside and beyond the Wall.

And in the east Daenerys Targaryen struggles to hold a city built on dreams and dust.

This destroys me at the end. I just want The Winds of Winter to come out!

49794564. sx318 sy475 Sanditon by Jane Austen – 3/5 Stars

Blurb: Written in the last months of Austen’s life, Sanditon features a glorious cast of hypochondriacs and speculators in a newly established seaside resort, and shows the author contemplating a changing society with scepticism and amusement. It tells the story of Charlotte Heywood, who is transported by a chance accident from her rural hometown to Sanditon, where she is exposed to the intrigues and dalliances of a small town – and encounters the intriguingly handsome Sidney Parker.

I enjoyed this because Jane Austen’s style is great but I actually preferred the television adaptation. To be fair to Jane this is one of her unfinished works but I still really liked all the quirky characters.

23513349Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Blurb: Milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose. Deals with a different pain. Heals a different heartache. ‘milk and honey’ takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

A stunning collection of poems, I really related to them. I don’t usually read poetry but I’m glad I read these.

45858619The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris – 3.5/5 Stars

Blurb: Vianne Rocher has settled down. Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, the place that once rejected her, has finally become her home. With Rosette, her ‘special’ child, she runs her chocolate shop in the square, talks to her friends on the river, is part of the community. Even Reynaud, the priest, has become a friend.

But when old Narcisse, the florist, dies, leaving a parcel of land to Rosette and a written confession to Reynaud, the life of the sleepy village is once more thrown into disarray. The arrival of Narcisse’s relatives, the departure of an old friend and the opening of a mysterious new shop in the place of the florist’s across the square – one that mirrors the chocolaterie, and has a strange appeal of its own – all seem to herald some kind of change: a confrontation, a turbulence – even, perhaps, a murder…

I enjoyed this book, I liked reading about the subtle magic the characters could do and being transported to the small French village.

34466963. sy475 Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker (Audiobook) – 3.5/5 Stars

Blurb: Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life—eating, drinking, and reproducing—the purpose of sleep remained elusive.

I love a non-fiction audiobook! This was really interesting and made me think about some of my harmful sleeping habits.

44147077. sy475 The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman – 4.5/5 Stars

Blurb: 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.

I’m so glad this book exists, I really enjoyed it, especially seeing Lyra as an adult. My full review is here.

50794839. sx318 sy475 The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins – 5/5 Stars

Blurb: It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined—every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute . . . and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

I’m still reeling from this book. It’s so clever, I love a prequel and this exceeded all my expectations. My full review is here.

41728472. sy475 Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty – 4/5 Stars

Blurb: The retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation.
Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages.
Miles from anywhere, without cars or phones, they have no way to reach the outside world. Just time to think about themselves, and get to know each other.
Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission. But quite a different one from any the guests might have imagined.
For behind the retreat’s glamorous facade lies a dark agenda.
These nine perfect strangers have no idea what’s about to hit them . . .

I really enjoyed this book, the psychological side of it was interesting. My full review is here.

I am thankful to these books for helping me escape reality during this scary and strange time. I also noticed that my reading speed has got much quicker as well!

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty Review

“Frances felt hope rise in the room like a delicate mist. Oh, to be transformed, to be someone else, to be someone better.”

Nine Perfect Strangers is set in Australia. Nine people have signed up to a ‘life changing’ retreat. They think they heading to a normal health resort. But they are wrong.

It was interesting to see how the characters coped with the stress of not being able to talk for five days coupled with the fasting periods. I definitely couldn’t do either, if I’m not talking to others then I’m talking to myself!

The book shines a light on how rushed and superficial our society can be. I have learnt through this crisis that it is good to slow down and take in your surroundings.

Very cleverly done, the characters are detailed and completely believable. Liane Moriarty is very good at writing real people, all the characters are complex and flawed which is why this book works so well. I’ve always found human behaviour fascinating and this book definitely shows great insight.

I really enjoyed this book, it was interesting, clever, shocking and moving. I’m excited to read more of Liane Moriarty’s work.

“Nine people were depending on her. Nine perfect strangers who would soon become like family.”

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins Review

“Nothing you can take from me was ever worth keeping.”

I was drawn in completely at the beginning. Of course we already know the Panem of the future, but this version of the Capitol still has rubble in the streets where the District 13 bombs hit. The citizens still remember the war and they are full of venom, full of bitterness. They still have their pride and now they have the power back. It was interesting seeing things from the Capitols point of view. I still didn’t sympathise with them because they disgust me. But a lot of people did object to the Hunger Games.

If starving to death was a natural cause. He wasn’t entirely sure. Was it natural if hunger had been used as a weapon?”

I loved Lucy Gray (Snow’s tribute) straight away, she is bold, sassy and wonderful. Snow is very clever and always eager to please but he still has compassion. I have no idea how it came about but I did start to feel sympathy for Snow. Despite knowing how he turns out, I found myself hoping that he would somehow not become the evil President of Katniss’ day.

We see the Hunger Games taking the shape of the ones we know. The spectacle, the show that the Capitol put on to subdue the Districts. It’s terrifying seeing all the horrible things that we know one day will harm countless children and make the whole event into a show rather than the slaughter that it is.

“If the people who were supposed to protect you played so fast and loose with your life…then how did you survive? Not by trusting them, that was for sure.

I loved all the little things that remind us of the original series. Like mentions of Mockingjays etc. The music that travelled down the generations, lullabies and nursery rhymes. Even some poems from before the apocalypse were made into songs by some citizens.

I didn’t want the book to end, because it was so brilliant and because I knew it must end in heartbreak somehow. Something must happen to Snow and I wasn’t in a rush to find out.

Truly an incredible read. Collins kept me on my toes the whole way through. Especially towards the end, I felt like I couldn’t dare to breathe. I am very emotional at the end of this book. The Coriolanus Snow we knew was cold, manipulative and evil. But we’re not born evil, and nor was he. If you like The Hunger Games series this is a must read.

“I think there’s a natural goodness built into human beings. You know when you’ve stepped across the line into evil, and it’s your life’s challenge to try and stay in the right side of that line.”