2020 Wrap Up

What an insane year this has been, I have read a lot but no more than usual. I’m very glad to see the back of 2020 although I’m still terrified at what next year will bring, but I know I’ll be able to read some brilliant books no matter what!

Total books read: 50

A nice round amount! The list includes 7 books by Terry Pratchett and 6 rereads.

Favourite book: Circe by Madeline Miller

Least favourite book: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

Shortest Book: The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald (144 pages)

Longest Book: Rogues (collection of short stories) edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois (913 pages)

Genre I read the most of: Historical Fiction or Fantasy

Favourite series: Tudor Legacy by Laura Andersen and A Song of Ice and Fire (of course!) by George R.R. Martin

Audiobooks: I listened to 12 audiobooks in total, I’ve definitely listened to less this year, I lost my motivation for them a bit and during lockdown I preferred to read physical books!

Favourite audiobook: The Time Travellers Guide to Elizabethan England by Ian Mortimer, narrated by Mike Grady

I hope you all have a lovely New Year even though we can’t go out and celebrate! Here’s to a less strange 2021!!

The Virgin’s War by Laura Andersen Review

“She was a princess walking a dangerous path between competing powers that would tear her to pieces the instant she slipped.”

This is the last in the Tudor Legacy series, what a thrilling and wonderful end it is. I will miss this series and the characters in it. The Courtenay family have such strong bonds with each other and as a reader you feel part of their family too.

The book begins two years after the events of The Virgin’s Spy. Stephen and Kit are training in France with their father’s oldest friend Renaud LeClerc. Lucette is at home with her husband but has suffered miscarriages. Her family are worried for her because of the emotional toll it has taken. Pippa is at Princess Anabel’s side in the North of England. Pippa saw in a vision that it was important for Anabel to win the Catholics in the North to their side. Minuette and Dominic are at their home in Wynfield Motte, they have not spoken to Queen Elizabeth since she banished Stephen.

War is coming, much like in history the Spanish are building an armada and plan to invade England. But in this story Philip thinks he has an extra weapon in his daughter Anabel. He believes that Anabel and Elizabeth have fallen out. He sends a vile fanatic to try and mold the Princess and get her to change her allegiances.

One of the things I have loved about this series is how Queen Elizabeth and Princess Anabel are portrayed. They are fiercely strong, independent and intelligent. They cannot be manipulated and rule brilliantly on their own.

I really enjoyed reading how everyone prepared for the war. The Courtenay’s were key to the plan, their ties to our royals are strong and they are dependable friends. It was great to see all the younger characters evolve over the story. They are strong and clever and brave. I am so proud of them. It’s an emotional rollercoaster, but well worth it! I cried a lot at the end which is not unlike me, I hate goodbyes.

“You’ve been playing games with royalty. Royalty does not require evidence.”

The Virgin’s Spy by Laura Andersen Review

In this part of Laura Andersen’s historical AU, England is in trouble, a war with Spain is brewing. Since Elizabeth and Philip divorced each other tensions have reached dangerous levels. Mary Queen of Scots managed to flee England at the end of the last book and has now married Philip. The monarchs have chosen Ireland as their first battle ground. There has been war there for years but this is the first time Spain is getting involved to defend the Catholics. The atmosphere and tone is so well set. It feels not just real but almost as if it is history.

Fortunately we are English. We are not easily seduced by beauty.”

Stephen Courtenay is sent to fight with some of his father’s men. But while there he meets a vile and ruthless English officer who orders the slaughter of an Irish town, including all the women inside. Stephen manages to save the female prisoners and tries to escort them to a more honourable Lord. But his camp is taken by surprise in the night, they slaughter the women and most of Stephen’s men. Stephen was found by English soilders and taken to safety, he was injured but managed to survive. When he got home he had PTSD and tried to drink the intrusive thoughts and the pain away.

The Courtenay’s are worried about Stephen but the person that gets through to him and helps him is Julian, Lucie’s husband, who we met in the last book. They trained together to build up Stephen’s strength and help him mentally too. Stephen wanted revenge, he was sure that it was an the horrible English officer that ordered the attack on him. He decided to go under cover in Ireland to help Elizabeth and enact his revenge.

“How often does a woman get the chance to answer the crimes against her? I have that chance and I will not forsake it.”

Meanwhile the twins and their parents travel to Spain to visit King Philip on behalf of Anabel who can’t risk her own safety, even to visit her father. I really enjoyed reading more about the twins, Kit and Pippa’s, relationship. Pippa has some psychic abilities but when it comes to her brother they can both read each other’s thoughts and feel what the other is. “Kit narrowed in on the intangible thread that bound him to his sister. It was as delicate as silk and as durable as diamonds, the finest, brightest part of him.”

Although lots of history are changed in the books, some elements are still very accurate. The political climate was this difficult for Elizabeth to navigate in real life, she walked the fine line between Protestant and Catholic.

“That meant they held all the cards. And that was the only way Elizabeth liked playing.”

Spring TBR

Spring is finally here, hopefully it will be getting lighter and less cold. I’m looking forward to seeing all the flowers emerge and watch blossom fall from the trees. Here are the books I’ll be reading this season:

833430Lord and Ladies by Terry Pratchett – March

I started reading this a few days ago and it’s already making me giggle. We’re back with the witches and they are facing a threat from a different world, Elves have visited before but humans manage to banish them but now the doorway between worlds has weakened.

 

50095371. sx318 sy475 The Garden of Lost and Found by Harriet Evans – March

The book is set partly in the early 1900s and in modern day. A brilliant artist is found burning his most treasured paining in 1919, it is a painting of his children at his home in the garden that him and his wife made for them. Juliet is the great-granddaughter of the couple and is sent the key to Nightingale House. The house holds its mysteries close but Juliet is in search of answers. I am really looking forward to reading this, my Mum has leant it to me because she knows I’ll love it!

27245960The Virgin’s War by Laura Andersen – April

This is the last book in the Tudor Legacy Trilogy, I still haven’t done my review for the second book, but I am loving this series. It’s a different take on Tudor history, Elizabeth I is on the throne but she has a daughter, Annabel. But war is brewing with Spain, partly fuelled by Elizabeth and Philip’s failed marriage. So Elizabeth will still have to deafeat the Spanish Armada. I’m very excited for this one.

833425Men At Arms by Terry Pratchett – April

Another City Watch story which are my favourites! Ankh-Morpork is a chaotic city and reading about the Watch trying to make sense of the chaos is such fun.

 

 

36430011. sy475 You by Caroline Kepnes – May

This looks both interesting and creepy at the same time. Stalkers are terrifying but it is easier for them to operate now when all our details are online. I think this is told from the stalkers point of view, this might creep me out too much but I’ll see.

 

31456276The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – May

A classic that I haven’t read before, I have seen the film but it was quite strange and I’m not sure I got the plot!

 

 

 

386368Interesting Times by Terry Pratchett – May/June

Another Rincewind tale with revolution, war and a falling empire. I’m excited to find out what Rincewind and his luggage get up to this time.

That’s my Spring sorted…what are some of your upcoming reads?

Top Five Tuesday – Series I Need to Finish

A new Top Five Tuesday, the prompts are created by Bionic Book Worm. I’m actually doing quite well at keeping up with series I’ve started, I don’t like to read similar books in a row so I do space out books by the same authors etc. These are all on my on my TBR list some are quite low down but shhh…

1. The Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley

I started reading these books this year, I’ve read the first two which were wonderful. They each focus on one of the sisters who were adopted from around the world by their father who recently passed away. He left them clues and coordinates to where they’re from in case they want to find out one day. I’m going to start the third book soon The Shadow Sister which follows Star and her journey to discovery in England.

2. Frieda Klein series by Nicci French

I have only two books left of this series, they are waiting on my bookshelf right now! I have taken my time with this one, I forgot it for a while, the first book was published in 2011 and the last in 2018. Frieda is a psychologist who liases with the police when they need help on cases. But trouble seems to follow her, she has a stalker who has followed her since the first book, he once saved her life. But he faked his own death so no one will believe Frieda when she claims it’s him that’s harming others around her.

3. Tudor Legacy series by Laura Andersen

This is the second series surrounding the Tudors, Elizabeth is now queen after her brother Henry died. It’s been fifteen years since the first series finished, Elizabeth has a child! And so do her dear friends Minuette and Dominic. As always at Tudor court there are spies and drama, I’ve only read the first book so far but the second isn’t far away.

4. Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

Although these books don’t have to be read in chronological order, each is a stand alone, they all take place on the strange Discworld and usually in the city of Ankh-Morpork. I love these books, I’ve lost count of how many I’ve read but I’ve still got many to go yet there are forty one in total!

5. Six Tudor Queens series by Alison Weir

I’ve only read the first of this series but it was so detailed and felt like a biography of Katherine of Aragon and her life in England. I am excited to read Anne Boleyn’s book because she has always fascinated me.

That’s all of them, I can’t believe it’s autumn already! Are there any series you have yet to finish or have forgotten?

Top Ten Tuesday – Auto-Buy Authors

I do have a collection of authors that I have to read everything they’ve ever written!

1. George R.R. Martin

This man though….he’s honestly a genius. I’ve read all of A Song of Ice and Fire and the first part of Fire and Blood which is about the Targaryen kings and queens. I’ve got Nightflyers waiting on my bookshelf which is a completely different genre from ASOIAF. It’s set in space in the future and I’m really looking forward to reading it.

2. Kate Morton

All of her books are stand alone but they all have a similar style. Set in different times but centred around the same place, usually an old house. The characters are so well written and I always form a strong connection to them. I love Kate’s descriptions of the houses and the different time periods feel real. I’m reading the Clockmaker’s Daughter at the moment which goes from 1862-2017 and lots in between but every time we switch there’s a different feel to the chapter, I don’t know how she does it. I’m always eagerly awaiting her next book!

3. Kate Atkinson

I first discovered Kate Atkinson when I read When Will There Be Good News? which is part of her Jackson Brodie series, he’s a private detective but the books aren’t so much focused on the crimes in them, more about the characters and how they’re affected. I read the rest of the series and when Life After Life came out I was bowled over with the incredible writing and depth of this book, it’s so beautiful and covers the theory of parallel worlds but not in a super sci-fi way. I recently read Transcription which was again historical fiction and I loved it.

4. Nicci French

Nicci French is actually a husband and wife duo! Their books are crime/psychological thrillers and some of them are super scary. I can’t stand scary films but these are different they’re full of suspense. The Frieda Klein series is really good, Frieda is a psychologist who consults with the police and seems to attract trouble. I’ve still got two books left to read from that series and then I’m going to tackle all the ones I haven’t yet read.

5. Laura Andersen

I’ve read her first trilogy The Boleyn Trilogy which is written as if Anne Boleyn had given birth to a son, she survived Henry and her son and daughter are heirs to England. It’s great historical fiction with a twist, the new characters who are friends of the Prince and Princess are Minuette and Dominic all four of them are true friends and have to try and navigate court life together. I’ve started the second trilogy which is set twenty years after the first, I can’t wait to read the rest. I really like Andersen’s style and choice of genre!

6. Lucinda Riley

I am loving her series of The Seven Sisters, every book tells the story of one of the D’Apliese sisters on the journey to discover where they were born. They also flashback to characters in history of each place, so far we’ve discovered Brazil and Norway! I really enjoy reading about the sister’s dynamics, I only have two sisters but they still reminded me of us a little bit! I’m really excited to read the rest of the series.

7. Ian McEwan

I read Atonement for the first time years ago and fell in love with it, since then I’ve read Sweet Tooth which is set in England during the Cold War, Solar and The Children Act. I love how all his novels are completely different, I’ve got all of his older ones on my TBR list and the newest one about robots!

8. Katherine Webb

Webb’s style is similar to Kate Morton, based in the past with ties to the present. The Legacy was the first book I read by Katherine Webb and I was completely hooked. Her others look just as intriguing, The Unseen is next on my list, it’s set in the early 1900s in a small village in England, when two strangers show up and change the town forever.

9. Stephen Fry

I’ve been reading Stephen’s books about Greek Mythology, the way he ties them all together is so clever. Mythos was great, I used to love learning about the many Greek Gods and Goddesses at school but I had forgotten how funny they were. I’ve started Heroes and there’s a third book still to come!

10. J K Rowling

Although we haven’t had anything from Rowling for a while and despite the epic disappointment the was Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (which wasn’t written by Rowling), I would probably still read anything she writes. After Harry Potter we had the Casual Vacancy about a small town, it’s residents and their complicated relationships and biases, I really enjoyed the book, I might re-read it soon.

So there they are, who are your must buy authors?

Top Five Tuesday – Debut Novels

A new Top Five Tuesday, the prompts are created by Bionic Book Worm. I’ve realised that I don’t read enough debut novels as I struggled to make this list! I do tend to stick with what I know so I might need to branch out and find different authors more. Anyway here are my top five debut novels:

1. The House at Riverton by Kate Morton, Published in 2007

This is such a good book and already Kate’s style is clear, the theme of past mysteries, old houses and brilliant written characters that stay with you. It’s set in England between WWI and WWII, a story about an aristocratic family their house and a mysterious death, told in flashbacks by a woman who witnessed it all.

2. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Published 2015

It is hard to believe this is a debut novel, it’s full of suspense and really clever. It follows three women and their involvement in each others lives. Rachel gets the same train into London every day and it stops opposite some lovely town houses, every morning she sees a couple on their balcony having breakfast together, she makes up a story about them. But one day the woman goes missing.

3. The Boleyn King by Laura Andersen, Published 2013

I absolutely love this book and the rest of the trilogy. What if Anne Boleyn had given Henry a son? Would she have been executed? In this story Anne gives birth to a baby boy and survives to raise her children. Henry IX becomes King at age seventeen. He’s known to his friends as William and there are only three people in the world that he truly trusts, his older sister Elizabeth, his best friend Dominic and Minuette a young orphan raised as a royal ward by Anne. It has all the drama of a Tudor court, a really brilliant read.

4. The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett, Published 1985

The whole Discworld series is quirky, funny and genius and the Colour of Magic is no exception. Our introduction to the Discworld and the wizards is led by Rincewind, a former wizard who was thrown out of the University for reading one of the spells that could end the world.

5. The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan, Published 2012

This book is set in the early 1900s, a ship to the USA goes down, the passengers are huried on to lifeboats and have to watch as the ship goes down. Now they are stuck in the middle of the ocean not knowing if help is on its way. The survivors on one lifeboat soon realise they are over capacity. Their supplies are dwindling and the weather is worsening. If they are going to survive they will have to make sacrifices. This book is chilling and thought provoking, as the reader I was constantly wondering what I would have done in the same situation. A fascinating take on humanity’s determination to survive at any cost.

What are some of your favourite debut novels?

Top Five Tuesday – Top five sequels I need to get to

A new Top Five Tuesday, the prompts are created by Bionic Book Worm. Sometimes I’m really good at reading sequels fairly close together, other times not so much. Here are my top five that I know I have to read asap!

321882871. Saturday Requiem by Nicci French

I’ve waited way too long to read this, it’s the sixth book in the Frieda Klein series and it’s next on my TBR list! This series is always so interesting and gripping. This time Frieda agrees to do a psychological assessment on a young woman who was convicted of murder when she was eighteen.

 

251493352. The Virgin’s Spy by Laura Andersen

This is the second book in the Tudor Legacy series, the first was excellent. The characters were really compelling and I love alternate histories.

 

 

309692713. The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley

This is the third book in The Seven Sisters series. I only just finished the second book but I’m already looking forward to this one. In this book we find out more about Star and go with her on her journey to discover her roots.

 

417169304. Children of Ruin by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I didn’t know this book existed until the Top Five Tuesday Space week! It’s the sequel to Children in Time, it’s set in space still but thousands of years after the original book, the humans and spiders are living together harmoniously and have made a spaceship of their own.

 

393215425. No Tomorrow by Luke Jennings

This is the sequel to Killing Eve, I wish the first book had been longer so I’m excited to read more about what Villanelle gets up to.

 

 

What sequels are you eager to get to? Or have you read any of the ones on my list? Let me know what you think!

Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR List

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic by thatartsyreadergirl is the top books on my Spring TBR list. A lot of these may have appeared on my Winter TBR post…I didn’t seem to get very far!

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1. Shouldn’t You Be In School? by Lemony Snicket

It’s the third book in the All the Wrong Questions series, I haven’t read any Snicket’s books in ages so I can’t wait to get into this one. His style of writing is so unique!

 

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2. The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley

This was definitely on my Winter list, I’m still really looking forward to reading it though, it’s only two books away!!

 

 

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3. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett

Although this is the second Discworld novel I haven’t read it yet! I’ve read lots of his book in a completely random order but I’m now tracking down the ones left.

 

 

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4. Saturday Requium by Nicci French

I miss Frieda…this was also on my Winter list but I actually have the book now so we’re all set.

 

 

246075655. Why Is This Night Different From All Other Nights? by Lemony Snicket

The last in the series, I tried to not read the third and this one too close together because if I read too many books that are similar together, I tend to get bored.

 

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6. Pyramids by Terry Pratchett

The seventh book in the Discworld series as with all of Pratchett’s books this looks funny, strange and wonderful.

 

 

375398207. Transcription by Kate Atkinson

I’m so excited for this book, I’ve been waiting for it to come out in paperback and it’s finally due out next month! It’s set in WWII and the Cold War, it follows a woman who joins MI5 and once peace is declared expects her job to be over but she’s very wrong. I don’t know a lot about the Cold War so this will be so interesting.

 

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8. The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

Again I’ve been waiting for this to be published in paperback form and the time is almost here! I love all of Kate Morton’s books, she never disappoints.

 

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9. The Virgin’s Spy by Laura Andersen

I really enjoyed the first book of this series and I’m eager to find out how all the characters are getting on.

 

 

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10. The Shadow Sister by Lucinda Riley

If I make this far before the Summer I’ll be seriously impressed. The third book in the series, this one is set in England and follows Star on her journey of discovery.

 

What are you planning to read over the Spring?

The Virgin’s Daughter by Laura Andersen Review

I first discovered Laura Andersen a couple of years ago when I read The Boleyn Trilogy which is historical fiction, reimagined Tudor history, what if Anne Boleyn had given Henry a son? She would still be alive and Queen. This was my dream book series I love historical fiction about the Tudors and Anne doesn’t die, perfect! The series is fantastic and The Virgin’s Daughter is the first book of the new series which starts about eighteen years on from the end of The Boleyn Trilogy.

Elizabeth I is Queen and married to King Phillip II of Spain, they have a daughter together, Anne (also know as Anabel). Minuette and Dominic, Elizabeth’s close friends now have four children of their own, each as brilliant and intelligent as their parents. I really enjoyed getting to know all their children. Mary Stuart is being held captive in England and there is a plot started by Catholics in Europe to free her.

Elizabeth and her trusted Lords have heard rumours of a plot but they think it is to have the Queen or Princess killed. Elizabeth decides to send Minuette’s eldest daughter Lucette to France where she was born while Minuette was in exile. The Le Clerc family are under suspicion and Lucette needs to discover which of the Le Clerc brothers is an enemy of England.

The book is very well written, all the characters, old and new are well rounded and their relationships are so deep and intriguing. Once I was about half way through I didn’t want to put the book down, it was so intense.

A really enjoyable read and I’m excited to read the next one!