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!

A Song of Ice and Fire Re-read: A Feast for Crows

This is my favourite of the series so far simply because three of my best characters have the most chapters; Cersei, Brienne and Jaime! It’s the first time we get to see Westeros through Cersei and Brienne’s eyes and I have the best time reading their thoughts. Cersei is sassy and so brutal I laugh a lot, unless she makes me emotional. Brienne is an absolute gem, I love learning more about her and her childhood. I just want to give her a massive hug. Jaime continues to be the chaotic sass king that we know and love.

We get to go to Dorne, finally! I love Dorne, the people are so badass, I would not mess with them! Arianne Martel is the next in line to rule Dorne. In Dorne women can inherit lands and titles before men and Arianne is a true feminist, she wants those rights for Princess Mrycella as well. Dorne however is in meltdown, they have lost their beloved Prince Oberyn, his bastard daughters The Sand Snakes want revenge. But Doran Martell is intelligent, he knows they can’t win a war against the Lannisters now that they have the Tyrell’s with them. He makes the decision to keep the girls imprisoned so they don’t stir up anymore trouble.

Brienne is literally the kindest person in Westeros and everyone treats her like crap and always has, it’s so depressing! When Brienne went to fight for Renly, the knights in the camp had a bet on who could seduce her first. They were all being nice and romantic to her face and then laughing behind her back, they are all on my kill list. Brienne cares so much about others, even when she came across some of the Bloody Mummers who captured her and Jaime in A Clash of Kings, they attacked her again, she killed them and still felt guilty. Even though they are evil! She deserves all the good things in the world and I would love to adopt her and show her the love she deserves!! Her last two chapters broke my heart completely, she tried to protect a group of children against seven horrible men and then got captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners. They took her for a Lannister, unfortunately her sword does have a lion on its pommel…and she has a note from the King granting her permission to move about the land. Lady Stoneheart told her to kill Jaime and she could go free, but Brienne would rather die until she sees her friends being killed too. I’m still crying about it.

Cersei starts the book having just learned her father is dead. And has been murdered by Tyrion who she thought was locked away. Cersei gets increasingly paranoid that Tyrion is still creeping around the castle in the walls. She decides to burn down the Tower of the Hand with wildfire after Tywin’s funeral. So extra, I love it! Cersei is not going to let anyone take her power from her, Tommen is still far too young to rule and like hell is my girl going to let a man rule over her again. Unfortunately Cersei manages to anger both Jaime and Kevan in her ruling. They are the only dependable family she has left. She makes some questionable decisions, the worst by far was letting the creepy, pious ‘sparrows’ take up arms in the name of the Faith. The Faith Militant were disbanded and banned back in the early Targaryen days. They caused trouble for Maegor I who had super powerful dragons at his disposal. To give them power back is beyond stupid, these idiots are obsessed with ‘sinners’ and punishing them. No one is safe. One of the most important things we learnt about Cersei was the prophecy she heard about herself when she was a child. She went to see a Maegi with her friends, Cersei still thought she would get to marry Prince Rhaegar at this point so her questions were about that. “Queen you shall be, until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear. Three children for you. Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds. And when your tears have drowned you, the volonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” The prophecy explains a lot of Cersei’s paranoia, she believes Margaery is going to take everything from her, that all her children will die before her and that Tyrion will kill her. I don’t think the younger brother mentioned in the prophecy is Tyrion. Jaime was born after Cersei, by moments but he is younger and his growing rage towards her could spell serious trouble. I worry for Cersei, mainly because I know what’s coming.

Jaime is spiralling in King’s Landing. He’s still trying to recover from loosing his hand and Tyrion’s warning to him that Cersei has been having multiple affairs keeps ringing in his head. He also has to deal with the guilt that he caused his father’s death. He let Tyrion free and his brother went straight to kill Tywin. Awkward. Jaime refuses to rule as the King’s Hand, he struggles enough with leading the Kingsguard. He is better at politics than he gives himself credit for but he’ll never be as good as Tyrion. Cersei sends Jaime to the Riverlands to take Riverrun back from Brynden Tully. On his way there he saw how desolate that part of the realm is now. It has been destroyed by the war. Outlaws roam the land along with a huge pack of wolves led by a direwolf. Jaime’s disdain of the Frey’s made me laugh, he tore some of them apart. They are a bunch of idiots and Lady Stoneheart is coming for them. Jaime seemed to feel better outside the city walls, but the outlaws may find him too, before long.

On my kill list: Littlefinger, Hyle Hunt and all the vile knights who were horrible to Brienne, Randyll Tarly, Walder Frey and all of his pathetic spawn, Olenna Tyrell, the Ironborn, The High Sparrow and his followers.

Let me protect them: Brienne, Cersei, Jaime, Arya, Sansa, the smallfolk of Westeros.

Heartbreaking death: Maester Aemon

Maester Aemon was one of the kindest and wisest characters in the whole series. He thought he was the last Targaryen in the world for years, but luckily before he died he found out about Dany and her dragons. I will miss all the knowledge he had to share, one of the things I find most incredible about him is that he could have been a king. His older brothers all died but he was already training to become a maester. He knew he wouldn’t be a good ruler so he declined and the throne went to his younger brother Aegon instead. He was never hungry for power, and he worked at the Wall to protect the whole Kingdom. And now his watch has ended.

Favourite quotes: “It was one thing to slay a lion, another to hack his paw off and leave him broken and bewildered.” – Brienne thinking about when Jaime lost his hand.

“She wanted sleet and ice, howling winds, thunder to shake the very stones of the Red Keep. She wanted a storm to match her rage.” – Cersei – this sums up Cersei’s constant rage so well, whenever I am angry this quote comes into my head.

“The women are the strong ones, truly.” – Arys Oakheart – thanks bro.

“Words are wind. They cannot hurt you. Let them wash over you.” – Brienne – this woman is so strong the amount of crap she puts up with from everyone else and still she carries on, so proud of her.

“It is being common born that is dangerous when the great lords play their game of thrones.” – Septon Meribald

The next in the series is A Dance With Dragons, George decided to split AFFC and ADWD up to focus on different characters which is why everyone at the Wall and in Essos wasn’t mentioned in AFFC. I’m probably not going to have as much fun with the first half of ADWD but I am looking forward to reading from Tyrion’s point of view again.

Top Five Tuesday – Alphabet

A new Top Five Tuesday, the prompts are created by Bionic Book Worm. This week it’s the second part of the alphabet! I’ve tried to go for books that I don’t usually talk about.

11735456F – A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin

This is definitely a book I’ve never spoke about (not)! I couldn’t resist having at least one ASOIAF book in the month. Westeros is in absolute tatters by this book and Kings Landing is about to get hit by a group of militant religious fanatics, great. This book has the first POV chapters for Cersei and Brienne which is probably why it’s my favourite because they are the best!

 

25493874. sy475 G – A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson

This book is the follow up to Life After Life, it follows Ursula’s younger brother Teddy as he joins the RAF in WWII and his life after the war. He becomes a husband and father but he struggles with all the changes in the decades that follow the war. It’s really poignant and heartbreaking.

 

 

7856358H – The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help is set in Mississippi, USA, 1962. The story follows Minny and Aibileen as they go through their lives as maids until Skeeter approaches them about the maid who used to look after her, she can’t find her. Skeeter decides to use her privilege to tell the women’s stories. This time in US history makes me shudder, I cannot understand how they could treat other people the way they did just because of the colour of their skin. And people still have that backwards view now, it madness. The book shows us what it was like for the women of colour in that time and how they kept going.

511684I – The Illustrated Mum by Jacqueline Wilson

I read this book forever ago, it’s about Dolphin, Star and their mother Marigold. Marigold has loads of tattoos, bright hair and a quick temper. Star is the eldest and worries what her Mum will do next.

 

 

833436J – Jingo by Terry Pratchett

This is on my TBR list, I just read the blurb, it sounds amazing. It’s about war over land that people consider their own and bearing arms in defence of their ‘own’ land. I can’t wait to read Pratchett make a fool of humanity once again!