What do I want to read in 2021?

I’m not the kind of person who sets a fixed TBR for each year, season or month. I love the
spontaneity of just grabbing an interesting read in the library. But because of that, it might occur that the books on my shelves, Kindle and wishlist are being neglected by library reads. A TBR can help to prioritize the books I really want to read. So, this is an experiment to see if a yearly TBR with a limited number of highly anticipated books (already on my shelves) will help me pick these up sooner.

So I decided to select this 10 books I would like to finish in 2021:

  1. First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson

This one was also on my autumn TBR, but I chose ‘Queen of the north’ over this one. However, I do want to read more of Hickson’s books. And this one about Jasper Tudor is next.

2. Amenable women by Mavis Cheek

A dual timeframe novel about Anne Of Cleves that I bought at a library sales. It has been on my shelves for more than a year now and I hope this to be an entertaining and easy read.

3. Revelation by C.J. Sansom

The next Matthew Shardlake is set during Henry VIII’s last marriage with Catherine Parr. I won’t wait long to read this.

4. World without end by Ken Follett

I have bought this one for my boyfriend as a Christmas present. We both enjoyed Pillars of the earth a lot, but the books are huge and I hope having a physical copy will help to prioritize this series. The third book, a column of fire, is already on my shelves ;).

5. A book from C.W. Gortner

This can either be the Vatican princess that tells the story of Lucrezia Borgia or The Romanov Empress about Maria Feodorovna (I own both). I love his writing.

6. The scarlet Contessa by Jeanna Kalogridis

The first kindle book I bought but still haven’t read. It always gets snowed over by other books, but I do love the story of Catherine Sforza. It feels like I’m saving this one for the perfect moment, but as perfect doesn’t exist, I do want to read it this year.

7. Warriors of the storm by Bernard Cornwell

This is the next installment in the Saxon series about Uthred of Bebbanburg. I loved the cliffhanger of the previous book, the empty throne.

8. Of price and blood by Patricia Bracewell

I’m not good at finishing trilogies if I wait to long with starting the second book. But I don’t want this to happen with Bracewell’s book. The first novel about Emma Normandy was one of my top 2020 reads, so I just have to read ‘the price of blood’ in 2021.

9. A thousand ships by Nathalie Haynes

Let this be my next Greek retelling fix! It has been on my radar for more than a year now.

10. The Essex serpent by Sarah Perry

Another one I can borrow from my boyfriend that neither him nor I’ve read. I have no clue why I’m waiting to start this one. It seems like the perfect autumn read.

What will you be reading in 2021?

Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me authors I read in 2020

TTT is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and every Tuesday there’s a new topic to list ten books. Today is all about new authors I discovered in 2020. Of the 39 books I read in 2020, 24 authors were new to me. So I’ll limit my today’s top ten to authors I want to read another book from.

  1. Caroline Lea

One of my favourite reads of 2020. I enjoyed Lea’s writing a lot! Her next book is called ‘the metal heart’ and has a totally different setting (WOII) so I’m really curious if I’ll like it as much as ‘the glass woman’.

2. Pat Barker

Pat Barker wasn’t the kind of author I was drawn to until she started writing Greek retellings. I love Greek retellings! The silence of the girls is a raw and feminist retelling of The Trojan War. And I’ll certainly read the sequel ‘The woman of a Troy’ which is to be released in 2021.

3. Patricia Bracewell

Another solid 5-star-read of 2020. This is only the first book in a trilogy about Emma Of Normandy. I hope to read the next book(s) in 2021.

4. Carol McGrath

Another first part in a trilogy. And next to this Rose trilogy, she has another one about woman that played a vital role during and after the battle of Hastings in 1066. So I’ll certainly look to McGrath for another excellent historical read.

5. Andrew Taylor

I’m always looking for a good historical mysterie and Taylor offers just that. I’m curious if I’ll like the second book in the Marwood and Lovett series even more than the first, which was a bit slow at times.

6. Gail Honeyman

I believe the whole book lovers community is waiting for her next novel, isn’t it?

7. Susan Vreeland

Authors who write about art and painters always tend to grab my attention. Her book about Vermeer is on my TBR.

8. Winston Graham

I have eleven more books to go in The Poldark saga. Luckily, I enjoyed Graham’s writing :).

9. Marcus Zusak

Yes, I know. It took me ages to read The book thief. And of course, I loved it. But I’ve heard his other books aren’t that great. So I’m not quite sure if I’ll read another one of him.

10. Matt Haig

Although ‘How to stop time’ didn’t make it to my top list of 2020, I still enjoyed his writing. And I know so many people who love all of his books. So I’ll definitely try another one.

What was your favorite new to you author from 2020? And have you read any of these?

My ten favourite books of 2020

Yes, it has been a crazy year. But when I look at my reading behaviour, it was quite a normal year. I had some trouble trying to read as many as last year after I lost my commute time, but in the end I managed to watch a lot less television so I was able to read more during the evening. And I read some great books! I tried to compile a list of my 10 favourites that I believe you should get your hands on too.

As I told you in my stats post of 2020: of the 39 books I read, there were three 5-star reads and twenty-two 4-star books. So, you can imagine putting together a list of only 10 great books wasn’t easy. But I will give it a try, starting with my three favourites.

The glass woman by Caroline Lea

I have spoken of this book a lot to anyone who wanted or didn’t want to hear it. This gothic novel offers an unique setting as it takes us to 17th century Iceland.

In the shadow of the crown by Patricia Bracewell

The first book in a trilogy about the life of Queen Emma Of Normandy. In this novel, she travels to England to marry the older King Aethelred only to fall in love with his son. In the meantime, the Danes are planning an attack on England to take the crown. An interesting historical saga for everyone looking for another setting than the world wars.

The poison bed by E.C. Fremantle

A man and his wife are both in The Tower suspected of the same crime. One of them confessed, the other pleads innocent. Only one of them is the murderer. This historical thriller with a high gone girl allure about the Thomas Overbury scandal at the Stuart court will keep you awake at night.

In the company of the courtisan by Sarah Dunant

A story about outcasts, friendship and art in Venice. You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy Dunant’s stories. They are here for the lovers of ‘la dulce vita’. Take a good glass of wine and let Dunant take you to renaissance Italy as no one can do that job better than she.

Milady by Laura L. Sullivan

Your favourite female villainess tells her story in this retelling of Dumas’ masterpiece. Follow the journey of Milady De Winter from a young girl on the English countryside to the most feared French spy. It will be quite a ride!

The silence of the girls – Pat Barker

A retelling of the Trojan War from the perspective of Briseis, a Greek princess who becomes the slave girl of Achilles. It’s a brutal and slightly feminist story that will change your opinion about Achilles, mark my words. I’m looking forward to the sequel ‘the women of Troy’.

The foundling by Stacey halls

A story about two different women with their own problems and demons. Bess leaves her baby daughter at the Foundling hospital determined to come back for her whenever she has the financial means. Alexandra is a rich widow afraid to go outside, so she locks herself and her daughter into their home, only to go out to the chapel around the corner on Sundays in a carriage. When Bess returns for her daughter a few years later, she learns another woman has already claimed the child under Bess’ name.

Sovereign by C.J. Sansom

Matthew Shardlake and Barak are again looking for a murderer, this time during Henry VIII’s progress to the North together with this fifth queen Catherine Howard. They also need to find some compromising documents about the monarchy itself. This was the best book in the series so far, but I do recommend starting with the first one, ‘Dissolution’.

The book thief – Marcus zusak

I finally read this story about a girl who loves reading during WOII, as everyone kept telling me I should. This is not your average WOII novel. It has an original perspective and wild imagination. A sad and hopeful story at the same time.

The silken rose by Carol McGrath

I was in doubt whether this would be my 10th book on the list or not. But I did choose the silken rose because I learned more about the life of Eleanor Of Provence, a forgotten queen, and Carol McGrath was a new-to-me author who I’ll look out for in 2021.

Other historical books that deserve a mention here are Queen of the north by Anne O’ Brien, Valhalla by Alan Robert Clark and the autumn throne, the final of Elizabeth Chadwicks books about Eleanor Of Aquitaine.

Have you read any of these? What was your favourite book of 2020?

Autumn TBR

Autumn is here and although is’t not my favorite season and I’m already missing summer, I still think it’s better than winter. Long nature walks, board game nights with friends and of course some reading under a blanket with a cup of hot chocolate.

I might be late to the party but I decided to make an autumn TBR as I don’t have specific reading plans yet and this post can help me pick up a next book. According to Goodreads I only need to read six books by the end of the year to finish my reading challenge of 35, but I hope to finish above that number.

Books I hope to grab in the library:
It’s always a guess which books I can borrow from the library, so mostly my list is a lot bigger than I know I will be able to read.

As I won’t make it to the library as much as in non covid times and I need to choose from what is available then, I’ll probably also bring home other books not mentioned above.

Kindle books on the shelf

I still have three interesting books to go on my Kindle, maybe this autumn?

Netgalley books

In the meantime, I’ve been approved for some really interesting Netgalley books, most of them with a publication date in December, so I will read them this autumn.

From my own bookshelves

Sometimes I forget I also have some physical books to read from my favorite authors :D. I have selected two that might be my next read.

  • Queen of the north by Anne O’ Brien – I loved ‘the shadow queen’ by Anne O’Brien a lot. So I’ve decided I want to read all of her books. This story about Elizabeth Mortimer is set during a rebellion under king Richard II’s reign.
  • First of the Tudors by Joanna Hickson – I’m lagging behind in reading Hickson’s books. She’s in the middle of some books set at the beginning of the Tudor reign. First of the Tudors is about Jasper Tudor, Henry’s VI uncle who helped him win the throne.

I know I won’t be able to read all these books this autumn, and I might even pick up some that aren’t on this list. But it’s always nice to have some inspiration when choosing my next read.

What will you be reading this autumn?

Top ten Tuesday: covers with dresses

Today’s top ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl is a cover freebie. Historical fiction is a really recognizable genre in terms of their cover art. Especially when you look at novels about historical/royal figures. They look all the same. Showing a women in a fancy dress. Mostly the women is recognizable as she is looking straight at you. But this is not always the case.

Today I want to show you ten specific covers from my (to be) read list where a dress is the key element on the cover. So a cover with no head or clear face, but just a dress.

  1. Empress of the night by Eva Stachniak

2. The wardrobe mistress by Meghan Masterson

3. Four sisters, all queens by Sherry Jones

4. Milady by Laura L. Sullivan

4. The queen’s Mary by Sarah Gristwood

5. Queen Elizabeth’s daughter by Anne Clinard Barnhill

6. The Royal Physician’s Visit by Per Olov Enquist (Dutch cover)

7. The queen’s vow by C.W. Gortner

8. The queen’s fool by Philippa Gregory

9. The forgotten queen by D.L. Bogdan

10. Queen of silks by Vanora Bennett

Which one is your favorite?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that Should be Adapted into a Netflix series

This is my first top ten Tuesday and I’m so excited! I’m new to all the challenges in the book blog community. But I was already familiar with this one and I decided to join. TTT is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and every Tuesday there’s a new topic to list ten books.

Today’s topic: Books that Should be Adapted into Netflix Shows/Movies.

My relationship with book adaptations is quite complex. I don’t like movies based on a book, because a movie is so limited in time and needs to leave out so many details from the book. The book is always better than the movie.

But with a series, it is sometimes different. I also discovered some of my favorite book series via an adaptation (such as Outlander, The last kingdom and Poldark). So I’m focusing here on which books I would like to see as a (Netflix) series.

1. The Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden

I finished the last book ‘the winter of the witch‘ a few months ago and my review on Goodreads said that this should be a Netflix series. It’s just a wonderful coming-of-age story in an original setting (medieval Russia). With both historical and fantasy elements. I think it would appeal to a broad audience.

2. Elizabeth Chadwick’s trilogy about Eleanor Of Aquitaine

If there’s one medieval queen whose story is interesting enough to deserve her own series, it’s definitely Eleanor Of Aquitaine. The books of Elizabeth Chadwick, starting with The summer queen, will provide a lot of material to start from.

3. All the light we cannot see by Anthony Doerr

And I have some good news for you! Netflix is at the moment working on a mini series based on this book. The book will always be better. But this original story about two innocent children finding their way in times of war will make a good series.

4. The poison bed by E.C. Fremantle

Move over Gone girl, this historical thriller will surprise you even more. I really need to write a review about this book, as I loved it.

5. How to stop time by Matt Haig

I didn’t love this book, partly because of the romance that dominated the story, but also because the whole secret organisation thing just couldn’t catch my attention. With all the flashbacks and flashforwards, I believe this story would work better on TV.

6. The song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Thanks to this book, we could have a sexy LGTB+ series in ancient Greece. A doomed war, heroes and villains, romance, and a mythological setting. The story has it all and it could bring the Iliad alive to a whole new generation.

7. Dissolution (and the following books) by S.J. Sansom

Move over Comoran Strike or Sherlock Holmes, the new star detective is called Matthew Shardlake. I would love to see this series come alive on the big screen.

8. The watchmaker of Filligree street by Natasha Pulley

I love a peculiar story once in a while. And especially on TV. The watchmaker of Filligree street would bring us to Victorian London and Japan. I just discovered there’s a prequel that I didn’t read yet.

9. The convert by Stefan Hertmans

A Belgian book about a young girl in the 11th century who converts herself to the Jewish faith. It’s a dramatic story that is still really relevant today in the light of the refugees crisis in Europe.

10. A gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I didn’t love the book and I believe it would work better on TV. By bringing the hotel to life and including more material and backstory about Russian history.

So this is my list 🙂 Which series would you like to see?

Historical novels set in a monastery

Today I want to talk about one of my favorite settings of a historical novel: a monastery. I’m no religious person whatsoever, but I find it really interesting to read about life in religious houses. I don’t know exactly what attracts me to this setting. I believe the fact that inhabitants are isolated from the rest of the world and limited to a certain amount of space contributes to the story, especially when a mystery is involved. The killer needs to be someone from inside—making it all the more exciting. Do you get me?

Also the role that monasteries played during the reformation and especially the dissolution by the likes of Thomas Cromwell is a topic that I have read about a few times. It gives a nice insight in why people would want to live a solitary and contemplated life. Religion was (and still is for some people) an important aspect of everyday life. Most people took their vows willingly, or went to a convent or abbey to repent for their sins, or to seek sanctuary.

Here’s my list of books that I’ve read where a monastery or religious life is involved and plays a key part in the novel.

The name of the rose by Umberto Eco

Probably the most famous novel of the list. It tells the story of Brother William of Baskerville who, together with the novice Adso, arrives at an Italian monastery for a religious debate. But a monk was murdered and William and Adso are charged to find the murderer before the delegates of the pope arrive.

I do want to include this book, but I need to say that I didn’t like reading it at all. I didn’t understand the whole religious conflict thing. The murder mystery was what kept me reading, but I was as lost in the story as William and Adso were in the monastery’s mysterious library.

I gave the story a second chance by watching the excellent Italian mini series (also named The name of the rose). I did enjoy it a lot but I didn’t recognize anything from the book :D. So, I do recommend to give this book a try, as so many love it. But I won’t reread it.

Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake #1) by S.J. Sansom

We move on to what might be my favorite story of this list. One of Thomas Cromwell’s men is murdered at the monastery of Scarnsea. Lawyer Matthew Shardlake is sent to catch the murderer.

This is the start of a historical mystery series about Shardlake during the Tudor era. I’m quite new to this genre of historical novels, but I love this series and I love Matthew. The murder mystery is quite good, although I found out halfway who the killer was, there were still a lot of elements that surprised me.

The Crown by Nancy Bilyeau

Joanna Stafford is a novice in the monastery of Dartford. During the dissolution of the monasteries, she get’s involved in the quest for an ancient relic on behalf of bishop Stephen Gardiner.

What I liked about this book is the fact that you get an insight in how a monastery reacted to the dissolution by Cromwell. You feel their fears and doubts. What I didn’t like was the search for the relic, this gave the story some kind of Dan Brown vibe (and coming from me, I don’t mean that as a compliment). Also the flashback to Joanna’s previous court life didn’t contribute to the story, I would have liked to just stay between the walls of the monastery. I still don’t know if I want to read the second book in the series. Is it getting better?

Sacred hearts by Sarah Dunant

This story is set in 15th century Italy in the convent of Santa Catherina. In that time a lot of noble girls where forced to enter a convent for the sake of their family. And not all of them go willingly. We meet young novice Serafina who is such a girl. With the help of Suora Zuana, the convent’s apothecary, she starts to feel at home a bit.

This is a different story, no murder mystery, but a novel about love and friendship during challenging times. Every nun has its own story and burdens to bare. I enjoyed this book a lot and I definitely want to reread it.

The pillars of the earth by Ken Folett

Everyone will know this book and yes, it’s not only set within a monastery. It’s an epic medieval tale set during the Anarchy in England. But thanks to prior Philip, you get an insight in the workings of an abbey and how a new prior could get selected and the power that it gave him.

Also the building and funding of the new church is an important topic and convinced me to add this must-read novel on this list.

Have you read any of these? Do you know of any other good story about a monastery, convent or abbey? I’m happy to add it to my list!