Over the last few weeks I’ve been glued to the news as the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded and changed our lives beyond recognition. While we’ve been following guidance to stay at home, I’ve been grateful for our little garden, which gives us an escape whenever we start to feel a bit claustrophobic in our house.
Although our lives have been interrupted, nature and spring have carried on oblivious to the pandemic. We have a long winter here in Scotland, and I always appreciate the earliest flowers in the garden reminding us that spring and change are on the way. There were a scattering of delicate Snowdrops in January, quickly followed by the glamourous Iris Reticulata ‘Pauline’. The Tete-A-Tete Daffodils started flowering at the start of this month, and now at the end the Narcissus Apotheosis are just about to unravel and bloom.
Regardless of what’s going on in our lives or the rest of the world, the birds in our garden need to be fed, the grass cut, weeds pulled and seeds sown – and these simple activities help to provide a little bit of distraction, purpose and normality in these strange and scary times. Hoping everyone reading is safe and well. X
It feels very much like we’re living in a dystopian novel at the moment, like many others I’ve been staying at home, worrying about family and glued to the news over the last week, yet at times it’s been necessary and calming to retreat from our strange, new reality into fiction.
Crooked Kingdom starts just after the events of Six of Crows (reviewed here); betrayed by the merchant Van Eck who hired them for the seemingly impossible prison break in the first book, the Crows are seeking vengeance while Van Eck attempts to eliminate them.
I have such a soft spot for rogues and underdogs who refuse to give up no matter how impossible it seems, and I loved seeing how this band of misfits fought back when Kaz’s carefully laid plans fell apart. What makes this duology so compulsive is that time after time the Crows are outwitted, ambushed and betrayed, yet somehow they always drag themselves out of it and refuse to give up. Although magic exists in the Grishaverse, I also really appreciated that most of the characters rely on a combination of skill and cunning rather than superpowers.
The romantic subplots are a little bit neat in that all six of the main characters pair off, though not everyone gets their happily ever after. Kaz and Inej in particular have become some of my favourite characters, and I was fascinated watching them circle each other warily, trying to bridge the distance across their personal traumas.
Crooked Kingdom contains the same blend of humour, action, twists and romance as Six of Crows, but I enjoyed the second book even more than the first. When reality seems stranger than fiction, I’m grateful to have stories as absorbing as this to escape into. Hoping everyone is safe and well. X
This week began with a funeral as my family gathered to say our final farewells to my nanna who passed away at the end of February. By a lovely coincidence, there were daffodils spelling the word Hope, my nanna’s name, on the grounds of the Crematorium.
My nanna turned 93 last September and I feel incredibly lucky to have had her all through my childhood and well into adulthood, but I’ll miss her and life without her will be a huge adjustment for our family. It’s particularly sad timing as she passed away before meeting our baby, her great granddaughter.
I’m very grateful to have such a store of memories with my nanna. I’ll remember her reading The Owl and the Pussycat to me when I was very little and reciting King John’s Christmas during Christmas dinner a couple of years ago. I’ll remember the sandwich cakes she baked for birthdays and special occasions, which were perfect every time, never burned, peaked, cracked or soggy. I’ll remember her singing songs from old musicals while she washed dishes, and her twinkling eyes and throaty chuckle as she told personal anecdotes.
When we came to clear out her house, there were only a few keepsakes I wanted, but I dug up some flowers from her garden that I hope will survive being moved to our garden and will always remind me of nanna. Have a lovely week. X
I’d been putting off reading the final part of the Shades of Magic trilogy because I’d fallen in love with the characters and their world so much that I didn’t want the adventure to be over, yet I finally gave in to the competing desire to find out how it all ends.
A Conjuring of Light starts immediately after the end of A Gathering of Shadows (reviewed here). There’s a certain sense of circularity in that the plot of the final book resembles that of the first, A Darker Shade of Magic (reviewed here) as once again magic incarnate spreads like a plague possessing or destroying all who come into contact with it, yet this time the stakes are so much higher. There’s a real sense of desperation as Kell, Lila, Holland, Rhy and Alucard battle to save the besieged city, and they have to set aside their differences and grudges to work together to fight a common enemy.
A Conjuring of Light was full of enough suspense, betrayals, sacrifices, romance and humour to keep me hooked right up to an ending that felt both satisfying and bittersweet. This is one of the best fantasy series I’ve read in a long while, and a trilogy that I’ll happily re-read at some point. Have a lovely week. X
Almost consecutive storms have battered the country over the last few weeks, though we’ve been very lucky to miss the worst of the weather. The storms have given us an excuse to stay snuggled up at home with our newborn daughter, but we’ve managed to get out for coffees and short walks with the wee one in the pram whenever there’s been a break in the bad weather.
At this time of year, every budding flower and foraging squirrel is a welcome sign that spring is just around the corner and nature is waking up from hibernation.
In our own front garden, hellebores I bought reduced at the end of their season last year have flowered and are brightening up some very dreary days. While inside our home, a cutting I took from a Himalayan honeysuckle plant has rooted and new growth has appeared much to my delight.
The days are already noticeably lighter – if not yet warmer – and I’m very much looking forward to getting out more in the garden and further afield in Spring. Have a lovely week. X