Books, Musings

My Year in Books – 2020 (part 2)

Its been well over a year since I wrote one of my usual reviews, the type this blog was established for. The day to day life of a person on wheels.

This past year my ramblings have turned into the day to day life of a frustrated shielder, plodding along. It was that or take a sabbatical. Only there isn’t anywhere to go, I would have gone crazy, and I wanted to stay connected.

It’s been a time to do those things you never get round to, and for me that was mostly eating way too much reading.

Last week I started to share with you My Year In Books 2020.

Here’s the rest of that list.

Thumbnail images of the book covers for the following reviews.

The One Thats Better Than The Telly Show

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

I’d had this audiobook for a while but it wasn’t until I saw that it had been made into a TV show that I finally got round to reading it. I say reading, but you know.

I watched the show way too soon after reading, and just so you know, they’re not the same. There are differences in the TV show that I think were crucial to the book, and so I wish I hadn’t watched, and maybe I need to read the book again to erase my current irritants.

The story opens with the Richardson house ablaze with fire, youngest daughter Izzy nowhere to be seen. Rewind, and we meet the family, each member with it’s own issues and perspective. Across the road, Mia and Pearl move it. From a different background, a different lifestyle. Not the usual for this neighbourhood.

As the story unravels so do their lives and secrets, in this drama mystery that burned slowly in more ways than one.

This is my favourite kind of read. A slow paced character study that delves into human behaviour and social dynamics.

The One I Read Again

The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

During the summer of 2019 when I visited a rose garden I said to myself I’d reread The Secret Garden soon, as it brought back memories of reading it as a child. I got round to it in the summer of 2020 when the only place I was going was my own garden. A place I’d previously taken for granted but learned to appreciate more than ever.

Most of you will know this classic story. Young, stubborn Mary Lennox is brought back to England to live with her uncle when she looses both parents to cholera in India. While wandering the beautiful gardens and grand house, Mary discovers secrets hidden within.

A mystery of sorts, with charming characters this was an enjoyable second read.

The One Where I Liked The Characters More Than The Storyline

Where’d You Go, Bernadette – Maria Semple

I didn’t dislike the storyline, although a little far fetched in place. However it’s the characters that made it for me. The mother and daughter relationship in this is by far one of my favourites. The bond feels so real, and bare. They know each other to the gut and have such a warming, absurd humour between them.

Narrative, broken up with snippets of letters, police reports and email correspondence, we follow Bee as she works to uncover the mystery of her mother’s sudden disappearance.

This satire is gutsy, witty and eccentric. An author I’d like to try more of.

Thumbnail images of the book covers for the following reviews.

The One I can Rely On For Entertainment

Here To Stay – Mark Edwards

I’ve read a few Mark Edwards thrillers now, each one a page turner. Ordinary people, getting on with their ordinary lives until some totally crazy, far fetched situation happens. But I love it.

It was unlike Elliot to be so spontaneous, but after a near death experience and quickly falling for Gemma (not me, thankfully) he proposes after just a few weeks. Life has never been happier, until Gemma asks if her parents can stay. Just for a couple of weeks.

It soon becomes clear that Gemma’s parents have no intention of moving on, as they gradually worm their way in and control all aspects of Elliot’s life. Taking the in-laws from hell idea to the next level.

This is an author I’ll keep going back to when I get the urge. Human behaviour fascinates me and I like to imagine how I would react in their shoes.

The One Where I Got Too Involved With The Characters

Grown Ups – Marian Keyes

Like I actually missed them for a while after I was done. I felt I knew these people, that I could even be friends with a few. We’ve all been locked away from our own peers for a while I guess! Sometimes I get so engrossed in a book, and read for such long periods of time, that it becomes entwined within my life. That’s the best kind of reading. Don’t worry, I know it’s fiction.

Opening with arguments at a family dinner, we flip backwards and follow the previous six months to learn how they all got here and what has caused the apparent tension.

The Casey’s appear a fortunate, wealthy and ideal extended family on the surface. But underneath each person has their own weaknesses, troubles and secrets.

This was a book club read, and I’m glad to have been introduced to Keyes writing. I don’t know why but it’s an author I’ve steered away from thinking ‘chick-lit’ wasn’t for me. Well it’s not what I thought it was.

The Ones I Read For A Bit Of Escape

The Magpie Trilogy – Sarah A Denzil

Sometimes you just feel like an easy and exciting read. Entertainment, not stuff that makes you contemplate the meaning of life. Almost 6 months into the pandemic and shielding, I needed a thriller and chose this trilogy.

One For Sorrow, Two For Joy, and Three For A Girl is a fast paced, page turning thriller. Set within a psychiatric facility, teenager Isabel Fielding is held for murder. Nurse Leah Smith, with a mysterious background of her own has doubts as to whom the real perpetrator is.

Although a literary masterpiece this is not, it certainly kept me entertained. With many, twists, surprises and secrets to unearth in every instalment.

The One I Read While Sunburnt

Instructions For A Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell

We were in the midst of a brilliantly warm summer while I read this book club pick.

One morning during the stifling summer of 1976 Gretta’s husband went on his daily walk to fetch a newspaper. Only this time he didn’t return.

The setting of a heatwave creates a suffocating and trapped feeling as this family with three grown up children of very different personalities and lives come together to figure out where their father has disappeared to.

Although only set across a matter of days, the structure of this novel is clever, as memories are sparked within the characters that then take us back on a journey to learn more about their differences, similarities and why they behave as they do.

This is my second read by Maggie O’Farrell, the first being I Am, I Am, I Am: Seven Brushes With Death. I’ve enjoyed them both more than I anticipated.

The One I Struggled To Get Into

Whisper Network – Chandler Baker

The suspected murder of a CEO forces truths to be exposed. Police interviews sliced between the narrative of four women’s lives create the story of what it’s like to work as a female in a male dominated workplace. Managing family life alongside a career. Sexual harassment, abuse and manipulation. The power that comes from standing together.

It took me a while to get into this one. To start, the characters are difficult to follow until you get to know them, with the book flicking between perspectives. The intention of this I assume is to make you feel a part of it, but not quite. Like many of the characters really. A whispering.

The One I’d Like To See As A Film

The Midnight Library – Matt Haig

It’s not often I say that. I’m generally a book rather than film version person, and the book is always better. However this just has something to it that I’d like to see on screen. A story I’d like everyone to experience.

A moment can change a life. A moment can make a life. And not only your own. When Nora Seed makes a choice that could change her life forever, she is taken to the in between, The Midnight Library. A place full of choices, regrets and possibilities.

If you could view all of your possible lives, which would you step into?

I had a serious book hangover from this read. It’s a book that makes you want to grab life. In a time of restrictions and thinking things may never change, it gave possibility.

The One That Kept Me Page Turning

Three Hours – Rosamund Lupton

I’m usually more for a psychological thriller, but when I saw a review on Instagram this was one I had to try. It would be something I’d definitely watch as film.

A school in rural Somerset is under siege, a headmaster has been shot and a gunman is on the loose. Set in real time (although I can’t read that quickly) the events unfold as told by the people involved. During the most intense three hours of their lives, instinct and adrenaline kick in as students and teachers find the courage, love and sense of community to save each other. Risk their life for each other.

I was on edge through it all. I felt for these characters that felt so alive, so real. As they learned who they were and what is really important.

A stunning, breathtaking and chilling read that is more relevant than it should be.

Thumbnail images of the book covers for the following reviews.

The One By The Author That Always Gets Me

Anxious People – Fredrik Backman

Quickly becoming one of my favourite authors, this is my third read by Backman. I first discovered him through my book club pick, and I’m so glad I did.

A group of people that have never met before are held hostage at an apartment viewing by a bank robber. Backman’s quirky, humorous, human and compassionate writing unravels some of the most warming and memorable characters you’ll read. Not everyone is who they seem, and mostly we are all just trying our best at life.

“So it needs saying from the outset that it’s always very easy to declare that other people are idiots, but only if you forget how idiotically difficult being human is. Especially if you have other people you’re trying to be a reasonably good human being for.” – Anxious People

The One When I Read Two By The Same Author This Year

The Break – Marian Keyes

After thoroughly enjoying Grown Ups earlier in the year, and Christmas approaching I decided to go for another Keyes read. Something a little fun and lighthearted.

Hugh has decided he needs a break. Not the kind of long weekend away break that I need right now. He means a break away from wife of 17 years Amy, one where he can be free and single and go find himself. Heartbroken Amy, unable to dissuade him, sees no other option than to let him go. Even though she knows that moment life as she knows it is changed forever, she goes on a mission of self discovery too.

Full of quirky characters and laughable situations that I have learned is Marian Keyes signature.

The One With An Epidemic While I’m In A Pandemic

Seven Days Of Us – Francesca Hornak

Yes you read that correctly, I chose to read a book set during an epidemic while we were in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic. I didn’t realise when I started. I just wanted a festive read for the Christmas period.

A disjointed family that seem to be drifting apart are thrown into quarantine together due to their doctor daughter returning from working in Liberia during an epidemic. Tension grows, secrets unfold and emotions break, as they spend seven claustrophobic days at their rundown ancestral country house in rural Norfolk. No I didn’t realise it was set right where I live either!

I enjoyed this witty read with the familiarities of Norfolk life and the current challenges of living in lockdown. Although not all of Norfolk is out of touch with modern life an WiFi!

That’s my 2020 in books. What have you been reading?

Catch up with part 1

Title text My Year in Books 2020 (part 2) is in grey text on a cream background. Above is an image of an open book with hands holding a mug or dark liquid.

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14 thoughts on “My Year in Books – 2020 (part 2)”

  1. Great list! I’m going to have to come back to it when I need to add to my TBR. I know so many people who loved Little Fires…and I really wanted to, too. Ng is from my neck of the woods, and the examination of class and race in a very upscale and very white Cleveland suburb laid the groundwork for an amazing book. Only, I didn’t like enough of the characters (or any, really) to make it a standout for me. And I usually love an unreliable narrator, even a Humbert Humbert-sort of antihero as MC. Dunno. Your description of the mother-daughter relationship in Where’d You Go… makes me want to try that. Great reviews–not easy to do, Gemma!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I must agree I wasn’t fond of the characters as such in Little Fires, as in I couldn’t see we’d be pals. However they did intrigue me and that’s what appealed and make me what to know what happened to them. The characters in the tv series were much more detestable.
      Let me know if you read any of the others.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Must be so weird to see your novel get repurposed for TV (not that I wouldn’t like to try–ha!). Do you do Goodreads? I haven’t been over there in ages, but next time I am, I’ll look for you. I think we probably have pretty similar tastes in books.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I do love Marian Keyes! Read both of those and a few more!
    I keep.hearimg very mixed, extreme opinions of The Midnight Library… think I’ll have to add it to my list, so I can make my own opinion!

    Liked by 1 person

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