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!

The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman Review

This book is set 10 years after His Dark Materials. Lyra is twenty years-old and studying at Oxford University. It still follows on from the first in the series La Bell Sauvage, we see Malcolm has grown up to be a professor at Oxford and he even tried to teach Lrya when she was a teenager. She didn’t know, of course that he saved her life when she was just a baby.

Lyra and Pan are launched straight into a mystery surrounding roses. Pan often goes out at night on his own and he witnessed a murder. Lyra and Pan always seem to attract trouble and they are still in danger from the Magisterium. The whole world is being dictated to by the Magisterium, they are scary people and their power is growing.

It broke my heart to see that Pan and Lyra are having trouble connecting. Ever since Lyra had to go to the Underworld in The Anber Spyglass, her and Pan have been able to move around separately but it also seems their relationship has suffered over the years since. Lyra has also lost the ability to read her alethiometer naturally, she now has to rely on books to tell her all the symbol meanings.

The Secret Commonwealth is the secret world of mythical creatures. Faries and many other creatures live in Lyra’s world but most people don’t know they exist or don’t believe in them. I love this idea, I think that’s what our world is like too.

I’m so glad we get to see more of Malcolm and more of the secret organisation he’s a part of. It was created to fight the Magisterium but their nunbers are dwindling. We get to see a lot more of the politics of Lyra’s world in this book. Everything is a lot more complicated.

The way that the humans without their daemons are treated and how they feel is like they have mental health issues. People avoid them unnecessarily, they’re afraid of them. And Lyra feels lonely and broken. Seeing Lyra go through this self loathing is tough, your early twenties are really difficult. I just wanted to give her a hug.

“She felt as if shed woken up in chains and couldn’t free herself, so she had to carry them with her wherever she went, like a badge of shame.”

An incrdible book, very emotional and thought provoking. At the beginning Lyra is reading a lot of philosophy books that question the existence of daemons but on her journey she finds out about the Secret Commonwealth. There is more magic around us than we think and we often forget that as we grow up.

The book ends on a cliffhanger of course! I don’t know when the next book will be published or even what it’s called, but I am eager to read it! Philip Pullman once again has drawn me in to Lyra’s world and I don’t want to leave.

“‘There are philosophers who say that the failure would be to believe, not to disbelieve.’ ‘Then they have separated their intelligences from their other faculties. And that is not an intelligent thing to do.’”

A Song of Ice and Fire Re-read – A Dance With Dragons

This post will contain spoilers for A Dance With Dragons!

As I suspected I was not as into this book as I was AFFC. I enjoyed meeting Griff and Quentyn but some of the chapters at the beginning started to bore me a bit. Also please get Stannis away from me. In the middle it gets more exciting as everyone closes in on Meereen.

At the beginning it appears that both Tyrion and Jon have changed for the worse. Tyrion is horrible, all he thinks of is violence, he scared a girl half to death in his first chapter. Jon is making cruel decisions like sending Gilly away without her baby and sending Maester Aemon to his death to ‘protect them’. Just tell Stannis to go away, he’s a sociopath, you don’t have to be one too Jon!

Bran’s chapters end early on, we barely hear anything from him. He is still trying to learn how to use his gift. But there is a chapter with Theon where he is in Winterfell’s Godswood, he hears whispers and thinks he can see Bran’s face in the weirwood tree so clearly our boy is getting better.

I enjoyed reading about all the characters converging on Meereen. Quentyn, Griff, Aegon and Tyrion all trying to get to Dany and trying to navigate around all the armies headed for the city. Dany is in real trouble, she has about ten armies heading for her city. While inside the city walls her people are being murdered. It’s an absolute mess and I still don’t fully understand her decision to stay there rather than head for her ‘home’ in Westeros. Not that I want her to attack my babies but I am worried for her.

The biggest game changer in this book is finding out that Rhaegar’s son Aegon is still alive. Jon Connington, one of Rhaegar’s childhood friends somehow swapped the boy for another and has kept him hidden in Essos all this time. They have been plotting with Varys to get Aegon to marry Dany. Another Targaryen changes everything, ‘the dragon has three heads.’ Aegon is the second. But he decided to go in a different direction on Tyrion’s advice, Aegon takes the Golden Company across the sea himself to take Westeros. They don’t have any dragons but they do have the element of surprise and a war torn country to prey upon.

Tyrion gets his humour back later on. He also saves Jorah from being sold to a woman who kills her slaves for meat. They end up escaping their masters and joining the Second Sons. Tyrion is trying to convince them to join Team Dany again when we leave them. But Dany has gone, she has disappeared with Drogon so who knows if she will ever see Jorah again.

Jon also chills out slightly. He sasses Stannis’ wife and her stupid guards. It’s hilarious how up their own arses they are. Jon thinks Arya is riding to the wall fleeing Winterfell and the Boltons but it’s actually Alys Karstark who is running from her uncles and an unwanted marriage. As we know Arya is in Bravos learning how to become an assassin! I am proud of Jon, he made sure all the wildlings could come through the Wall and help protect themselves from the White Walkers. But some of the Night’s Watch loathed him for it. My Jon died alone in the cold, betrayed and stabbed by his own men.

The only Theon chapter I could read without wanting to throw the book across the room was quite late on. The Bolton’s and their allies are all snowed in at Winterfell, waiting for Stannis’ army to arrive. But men keep turning up, murdered, the storm is only getting worse. The North Rememberers.

Jaime only has one chapter, he’s just wandering through the Riverlands, in no haste to get back to King’s Landing where his sister is imprisoned! Thanks bro. But before he can get home he comes across Brienne. Usually this would be great, but she has been tasked with bringing Jaime to Lady Stoneheart. I don’t know how Jaime is going to talk himself out of this, I just really don’t want him to die!

Cersei’s chapters broke my heart. I hate seeing her suffer like that. The whole time she is imprisoned she still has faith that Jaime is coming with his army to save her. But we know that is not true. I am so in awe of her strength, even when faced with the humiliation of the walk of atonement, she is fierce and strong and knows that this is the only way to reach Tommen. I was sobbing through the whole chapter but she has her champion now, the Sparrows’ days are numbered.

This is a re-read but I completely forgot what happened in the epilogue! Kevan Lannister is now acting a regent. He is trying to make the chaos around him better. But he is doing too good a job. He was summoned to Grand Maester Pycelle’s chambers, only the old man is dead and Kevan gets shot in the chest with a crossbow. Varys has somehow managed to get back into to capital. He’s determined to have chaos so that Aegon can swoop in and take the throne. Kevan was the Lannister’s only hope, I have no idea what is going to happen in The Winds of Winter but it doesn’t bode well for most of my favourites.

On my kill list: Stannis, Melisandre, Theon, The Boltons, Walder Frey and all of his offspring, The High Sparrow and all his followers, the Ironborn, Jon’s murderers and Varys.

Let me protect them: Cersei, Jaime, Brienne, Arya, Tyrion, Jorah and Dany.

Heartbreaking death: Jon Snow

Some people believe that Jon isn’t dead or that he will be brought back in TWOW but to me it was clear that Jon died in his last chapter. I will never forgive those traitorous pieces of shit for killing Jon. He was the kindest and most intelligent person at the Wall. Jon was the only person who could see that by protecting the wildlings he was stopping the Wights army of the dead from growing stronger. The betrayal is the worst part, Jon put everything into being the best Lord Commander of the Nights Watch he could and they stabbed him in the back, literally. I am so sorry Jon.

Favourite quotes:Men are beasts, selfish and brutal. However gentle the words, there are always darker motives underneath.” – Vagarro’s Widow

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, the man who never reads lives only one.” – Jojen Reed

“I rose too high, loved too hard, dared too much. I tried to grasp a star, overreached and fell.” – Jon Connington, this quote breaks my heart. He’s spent most of his life in love with Rhaegar and hoping some day to avenge him.

“I am a lioness, I will not cringe for them.” – Cersei Lannister

“However bright a torch might burn it could never match the rising sun.” – Kevan Lannister, thinking that if Rhaegar had married Cersei the prince would not have turned to Lyanna.

That’s all we have for the moment, most of my favourites are in peril and I am patiently waiting for The Winds of Winter to be published!

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.”

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.

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.”

A Song of Ice and Fire Re-read – A Storm of Swords

This post will contain spoilers for A Storm of Swords so don’t read on if you haven’t read it yet.

A Storm of Swords is a very long book, so long that it’s split into two here in the UK. This one probably has the most major character deaths of the bunch. It’s terribly emotional and Westeros is in absolute chaos. Four Kings are left standing but by the end of the book three of those will be dead.

One of my favourite things about the book is Jaime’s pov chapters, we get to see his adventures with Brienne. I say adventure and it sounds fun but they had an awful time trying to outrun everyone and get back to King’s Landing in one piece. Jaime is very sarcastic and therefore funny to read but I also love reading about his life in the Kingsguard when he was younger. The chapter when he opens up to Brienne about when he killed the Mad King is so emotional and adds more complexity to his character.

I was got very frustrated that no one would listen to the women in this book. Catelyn knows so much, she knew Theon wasn’t to be trusted and when Robb brought his stupid wife back and her family, Cat knew that their fear of Grey Wind was a bad sign as well as obviously angering the most petty Lord in the whole Seven Kingdoms. Also Cersei sensed danger at Joffrey marring Margeary and she was right, he died.

Never go to a wedding in Westeros. First we have Sansa having to marry Tyrion who is over twice her age and worse for Sansa, a Lannister. Tyrion was also unhappy with the match and refused to share Sansa’s bed until she was ready.

Then of course we have the Red Wedding which is the most devastating event in ASOIAF. Robb Stark was winning the war until he broke his word to Walder Frey and married someone from the Westerlands instead of one of Frey’s daughters/granddaughters. The Northerners need to get back to their homeland to take back their homes from the Ironborn, but the way is barred by the Freys. Eventually they come to an agreement and Edmure Tully is to marry a Frey instead. All seems well, Robb apologised and was forgiven. But after the wedding feast a slaughter ensued. All our Northerners were murdered, including Robb and Cat and their army outside the castle. The worst part is that Arya was within moments of seeing her family again before they were taken from her. I will never be able to read those chapters without ugly sobbing, it’s so horrible.

Lastly we had the Purple Wedding. A royal wedding with Joffrey and Margaery tying the knot. Everything was going fine until Joffrey decided to use Tyrion’s embarrassment as a source of entertainment. He insists that Tyrion be his cub bearer and pours wine over his head. But someone else had better ideas than letting their only granddaughter marry a sociopath. Joffrey appeared to choke on some pie, but really he was poisoned. I hate Joffrey but Cersei having to loose her son that way breaks my heart. Tyrion was set up, he was the one pouring the King’s wine, the perfect time to slip him some poison.

Tyrion’s trial was also a set up. It’s a tough read because of the injustice of it all. Tyrion has no witnesses himself so he looses it, confesses that he would love to murder everyone in the room and call for a trial by combat. Full respect, Tyrion has been treated like rubbish his entire life and finally he has had enough. The trial by combat is such a good chapter. Oberyn Martell agreed to fight for Tyrion against the monster that is Gregor Clegane aka The Mountain. The Mountain killed Oberyn’s sister twenty years ago when King’s Landing fell in the war. Oberyn wanted revenge and almost had it, but he would not finish it, he had Clegane on his back, stabbed and dying but he insisted on waiting until Clegane had admitted his crimes. The most gory major death to date in ASOIAF I think, sorry Oberyn!

The epilogue is arguably my favourite part of the book. The Brotherhood without Banners have recruited another undead member. Thoros brought our Catelyn back to life. She can’t speak and she can’t remember much, but she is out for revenge and hanging Frey’s in the Riverlands with the help of the Brotherhood. I am desperate to read more of Lady Stoneheart, my poor Cat.

Favourite death: Tywin Lannister, I hate this guy, he’s been emotionally abusing his children for decades so it’s no surprise that Tyrion was the one to finally end his life. The best part is that he was on the toilet! “Tywin Lannister, in the end, did not shit gold.” One of my favourite lines ever, so funny.

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

Favourite quotes: “Their blades made a little island of light , but all around them stretched a sea of darkness, unending.” – In Jaime’s dream, him and Brienne are casting the only light he can see. When he wakes up he goes back to Harrenhall to stop her being killed by the vile Bloody Mummers.

“Sansa is no longer yours to torment. Understand that, monster.” – Tyrion to Joffrey.

“A man has a right to vengeance. But he slew a man beneath his roof, and that the gods cannot forgive.” – Old Nan from a story she told Bran. Frey is going down.

“Brienne looked so miserable that Jaime almost found himself wanting to comfort her.” – Jaime (I’m not crying, you’re crying!)

“We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us and one day our children will take up our strings and dance in our steads.” – Tyrion. I just love this image.

“Sourcery is a sword without a hilt. There is no safe way to grasp it.” – Dalla

On my kill list: Walder Frey and all of his vile spawn, Stannis Baratheon, Melisandre, The Bloody Mummers, Gregor Clegane, Olenna Tyrell, Littlefinger.

 

 

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?

Lost Among the Living by Simone St James Review

“Some mad people wished for death, but others clung to life, even when that life was filled with pain.”

This book is set after WWI in England. Jo’s husband went missing during the war, he was a pilot and his plane was found abandoned. Jo has struggled with her grief and with money ever since, she has to pay for her mother to live in a care home. Out of the blue Jo received a letter from her husband’s aunt asking to employ her as a companion for her travels around Europe.

Once the trip was finished Jo went back to stay with Dottie at Wych Elm House. Dottie’s son Martin was seriously injured in the war and after years in hospital has finally been released to come home. A darkness hangs over the house, Dottie’s daughter died there, she was a troubled girl but at first no one will talk to Jo about her. Frances used to see demons and was terrified every day, she was haunted by nightmares. She probably had some sort of pyschotic disorder but in those days mental health was not spoken about. It appeared that Frances jumped from the roof but on her first day Jo sees the ghost of Frances and realises that she needs to help reveal how she actually died.

I love a good historical mystery and it also had a lot about mental health in the story which is refreshing in a historical fiction novel. It was like reading a classic ghost story at times, I was seriously jumpy after I’d read parts. I wasn’t really scared but it just made me think about ghosts so any random noises freaked me out.

I also solved the mystery before it was revealed (because I’m a genius!) I won’t spoil it for you though. But I write notes as I go and one of my revelations was correct. The characters and their stories, especially Jo and Frances were very compelling. The book had me on the edge of my seat especially towards the end.

“So simple. Lean out, lean over, let gravity take you. Let go.”

Top Five Tuesday – Bookish Habits

A new Top Five Tuesday, the prompts are created by Bionic Book Worm. This week’s topic is bookish habits, I’ve never really thought about my reading habits before and I’m excited to read other people’s as well.

1. Always use a bookmark

It doesn’t have to be a proper bookmark, cardboard tags work. But I would never be able to remember the page number and folding down the corner of the page will damage the book. I have got a load of back up bookmarks as well just in case I need them!

2. Rarely read in silence

I use music to help me concentrate, I couldn’t watch something on tv and read that would be too confusing but music helps block out other noises, especially when I’m on the train to/from work.

3. Keep my books safe in my bag with a sleeve

My sister got me a sleeve or as I call a sleeping bag for Christmas a couple of years ago and I love it so much. I take a book to work everyday and before I struggled to protect them but now they could be new, it stops the corners bending or fraying, it’s wonderful.

4. Read at work over lunch

I have an hour to kill, I don’t know what else I could do. It lets me escape and helps me be calm for the afternoon if I’ve had a good read. And it allows me to process the book and what I just read better because I have to stop every now and then.

5. I often hug my books when I finish them

If I loved the book or it had an emotional ending, I will give it a hug. Mainly as a thank you and also I feel as if I’m hugging the characters.

Please share some of your bookish habits, I’m really intrigued!