As I failed the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge last year, I decided with my new 2020 vision, I have no excuse to fail. The year kicked off to a fiery start with the consumption of books…And well we know how 2020 went after March… Safe to say I did better this year, reading the 52! So this is the bit you’ve all been waiting for, the booklist and review of my 2020 in books.
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1. American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century – Maureen Callahan
Genre: True Crime
Honest Review: Israel Keyes was a terrifying serial killer. The book is told in three parts, an introduction to a victim of Keyes, the mystery of her disappearance, the manhunt for Keyes and the interviews between him and the FBI. It is respectfully written and documents what little we know of Keyes. I wouldn’t read this before going to bed. Even though I did, take it from me, its heavy and seriously messed up in parts.
2. Bandwidth – Eliot Peper
Genre: Science Fiction
Honest Review: I don’t think this genre of sci-fi is my cup of tea as I just really struggled with the concept of this one. It was hard for me to fully understand and dig into. Also being an almost thriller of a book, its pace was equated to that of a snail, something that leaves a thriller well un-thrilling. The idea is intriguing of everyone having a digital feed and how that effects the future politics of the world, but not refined enough for me. I also couldn’t take the name Dag seriously, so that may have something to do with it…
3. A Serial Killer’s Daughter – Keri Rawson
Honest Review: It’s a book of self-reflection, acceptance, and trauma. It’s written in a way that’s personal, and honest, so it can be a little rambly at times. She has a fierce connection with God and her faith throughout it commendable as well as inspiring. Overall I feel this book is a great insight into the lives of those closest to serial killers, and how much of a double-life, psychopaths can maintain for decades.
4-8. The High Society Murders- Sara Rosett
Murder at Archly Manor
Murder at Blackburn Hall
The Egyptian Antiquities Murder
Murder in Black Tie
An Old Money Murder in Mayfair
Genre: Murder Mystery
Honest Review: First of all lets appreciate the covers for this series. Absolutely gorgeous! A high society murder mystery, taking the best of Agatha Christie’s 1910s and 1920s murder, but utilizing modern language and writing style. The mystery is not as twisty as Agatha Christie, but still engages the reader with a sophisticated and intriguing tale. I like the straightforward descriptions in the book and the overall atmosphere will definitely read the rest of the series!
9-14. Lady Hardcastle Mystery – T E Kinsey
A Quiet Life in the Country
In the Market for Murder
Death Around the Bend
A Picture of Murder
The Burning Issue of the Day
Death Beside the Seaside
Genre: Murder Mystery
Honest Review: This is a very fun, cosy series to get stuck into. Lady Hardcastle is an upper class sleuth, so a bit classier than say Miss Marple, but joined by her deceivingly strong hand maid Flo. The relationship these two have is very heartwarming, especially with the plots jumping back and forth from their mysterious past, the tragic death of her husband and the plethora of cases they face. The stories are well researched and I appreciated the authors notes about research and challenges they faced.
15. Shadowplay: Behind the Lines, Under Fire – Tim Marshall
Honest Review: A journalist’s experience of the final conflict in the breakdown of Yugoslavia. Tim Marshall is a very talented writer, journalist and storytelling, not just spewing facts in his writing like a lot of war correspondents seem to do in their books. This book is a beautifully written eye-witness account of the harsh reality of the brutal Kosovo conflict. Without context, this book can be messy and difficult to understand, so if you have no understanding or background reading on the breakdown of Yugoslavia and the Kosovo crisis, read up more on the subject before reading this account.
16. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Honest Review: It is a classic. With all classics the writing is superb, with such a great meaty set of vocabulary used and a very distinctive use of the semicolon. I’m sure everyone knows the story by now and the age old debate between science and nature, the futility of man/monster…
17. The Alice Network – Kate Quinn
Genre: Historical Spy Drama
Honest Review: From start, to finish, this book had me hooked. Usually, I am not a big fan of books that flop around the place, but I was a fan of how this book took two interesting women and divided their story into two parts, and then merged them in a way that developed the story, and the characters in a phenomenal manner. The book talks of a female spy ring in the great war and of the atrocities of the second world war, in a respectful yet heartbreaking way.
18. The Secret History of Soldiers – Tim Cook
Genre: Military History Non-fiction
Honest Review: During my university studies of Military History, I didn’t really delve into the Great War that much. I was very interested in the evolution of firepower, the great technological leaps the 1910s saw, the cataclysmic failures, but never really the social history of soldiers. The poetry and art that has come out of the war has always interested me, and that is as far as I dare say my expertise goes… This book by Tim Cook has changed that for me, giving a great insight on the social history of Canadians who find themselves in the mud and terror of the trenches in Europe.
19.In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 – Mary Beth Norton
Genre: History of Witchcraft
Honest Review: The biggest witchery history of all time, Salem and the Pendle witch trials broken down and analysed in this brilliant book. Ever wondered what actually happened of the scepticism behind the puritan hysteria in the 17th century Massachusetts? Go no further this book has you covered with a good narrative of what happened and why. The attention to detail is fantastic and you can tell Norton did her research, and then did more before writing this book.
20. Death in the English Countryside – Sara Rosset
Genre: Murder Mystery
Honest Review: The first book in the Murder on Location series. Oh I had high hopes for this after reading Rossett high society murder mystery series. I wanted to like this but it just felt flat. The characters lacked the punch and personality I craved and just seemed very bland. The concept is good, the idea of location scout finding her missing boss, but that is all I found good.
21. All the Light We Cannot See – Andrew Doerr
Genre: Historical drama
Honest Review: This book did not disappoint me in any way. After reading The Alice Network, I have high hopes for books set in the world wars and my gosh does Doer tick the boxes for me. I usually don’t like two separate narratives in a book, however this worked. The story works so well for me this year in particular as I live in the area the book is set. Maybe it is because of this that the book works so well for me, as well as the story just being so beautiful.
22. Stardust – Neil Gaiman
Honest Review: What can I say apart from utter fantastical joy. Admittedly, I watched the movie before reading the book, and absolutely loved the film. But as always, films miss out some really good bits. Stardust is the same. The movie is just seemingly based on the book, as there is so much more in the pages than the simple brilliant love story as portrayed in the film. If you haven’t read this book then you are honestly missing out on a world full of intrigue, magic and wonder.
23. The Shell Collector – Andrew Doer
Genre: Short Stories
Honest Review: A collection of stories that have interesting and captivating content. The first one in particular, the namesake of the collection, was written in such detail and depth, that I feel it could easily continue to be a whole novel. I felt with some of the other stories, but not as strongly. The themes vary throughout and are very captivating.
24. Remarkable Creatures – Tracey Chevalier
Genre: Historical Drama
Honest Review: I forgot how much I adore Tracey Chevalier as a writer. This story is about companionship, the strength of female character, and fossils in the early 19th century. The characters are very likeable and draw you into their passions, their fears as well as the barriers they face.
25-30. Lady Katherine Regency Matchmaker – Leighann Dobbs & Harmony Williams
An Invitation to Murder
The Baffling Burglaries of Bath
Murder at the Ice Ball
A Murderous Affair
Murder on Charles Street
Genre: Murder Mystery
Honest Review: Don’t read this series seriously. There is a lot to hate about the characters if you analyse them, as well as the books themselves so if you are one of those serious book review readers, skip this series completely. It’s whimsical, its fun and it’s a historical amateur female sleuth, strong and rebellious trying to do a man’s job but due to the laws of society she must hide it under the guise of a woman’s job. These are fun more than anything and loved that about them.
31. Reel Sisters – Michelle Cummings
Genre: I’m not sure sport? Murder?
Honest Review: Why did I pick up this book. From the first chapter I felt attacked. the amount of profanity used is not empowering. It is mildly offensive. I tried to like this book but honestly never read something with so little cohesive substance. The book “follows” female fly fishing friends and their love of the sport, but the blurb sets it out as a murder mystery. It is a slow moving book and really wasn’t my cup of tea.
32. Midnight Vigilante – Leonor Bass
Genre: Crime Thriller
Honest Review: A fast paced crime thriller that will set the heart racing. I had to take breaks with this one as it was legitimately thrilling for me, especially because I have mainly reading more whimsical fun murder mysteries this year… If you want to read my full review, find it here.
33-42. Ginger Gold Murder Mystery Series – Lee Strauss
Genre: Murder Mystery
Honest Review: Ginger Gold, what a highly unrealistic character I have grown to love. This is another fantastic cosy murder mystery series, very light hearted and fun with nothing too heavy. The character development is pretty decent, with characters reoccurring in several of the books. However, I miss Haley Harrigan in the later books! I loved how dynamically contrasting she is to Ginger. Maybe she will appear in the later books?
43. Mime -Chrissy Harrison
Genre: Thriller, Horror
Honest Review: Supernatural thriller horror adventure book, full of action, intrigue and mystery! This was one of those books you don’t want to put down as it moved so fast. Read my full review on Mime here
44. The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
Honest Review: “When you want something the whole universe will conspire together to help you get it?” This is the whole premise of the novel I find, and I adore that. The book is originally written in Portuguese and the english translation I read was a little clunky in places but the overall wonderment was there for me. It did have some moral questions I did not wholly agree with, but overall I enjoyed the premise and the concept.
45. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid
My 2020 Top Read
Honest Review: I was not sure what I was getting into with this book and oh my am I not disappointed. This masterpiece guides you through the “behind the scenes” of a fictional Hollywood star, the secrets, scandals and sacrifices. This is the kind of book that you need a minute to digest after reading. The amount of emotion this book brings from the biography telling to the journalist character’s latter entwining into the tale, I can’t begin to express my awe of the writing. Halfway through the book I had to google and see if Evelyn Hugo was a real actress as it was that convincing. She has characteristics of Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe, all rolled up into a beautiful headstrong leading lady.
46-47. All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful – James Herriot
Honest Review: Not sure if this one counts as cheating as I did read the James Herriot books back when I was 14. Reading this series is like having a conversation with an old friend in a good English pub over a beer and hearty meal. It gives me the feeling of Hiraeth, and that is something I treasure! Onto the book itself. James Herriot is the pen name of the Scottish Vet who writes his experiences of working in the Yorkshire during the 1930s onwards. The insight to life is like looking through a window to a former time, with the description of small farms, and the sense of community. Vet practise back in the day was a lot more guess work than science and it is nice to have an insight from someone who appreciates the practise and the scientific progression throughout the year.
48. A Head Full of Ghosts – Paul Tremblay
Honest Review: The only scary thing I found in this book is that this scenario only happened due to the healthcare system in the United States. Not being able to afford health cover for mental illness is an unfortunate and sad reality, and the premise just really disappointed me. Some readers may indeed find the book thrilling and scary with the exorcist theme going on, however I just was utterly disappointed.
49. The Butterfly Garden – Dot Hutchinson
Honest Review: First off this is the first of a series so 2021 list will have the sequels on it. The book itself.. oh wOw this went from 0 to 100 in a beat of a butterfly’s wings. So little is given away, but there is so much to unpack. The characters are just *chef kiss* and the story is more of a fragmented interview. Usually I would get annoyed at this story delivery, but this just works. It’s utterly phenomenal and horrifying at the same time.
50. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy LifeLink opens in new window – Héctor García
I am not one for the self-help genre of books, you know the ones that are like “unf*ck your life by eating dairy” or “I was a mess but now I’m not”… And I did think this book would be a bit like that, but in fact, I was pleasantly surprised. If there was a book to help with the quagmire of creativity of 2020, this would be it. The way it explains Ikigai just makes sense, as well as being easy to begin applying the principles of it to your own life.
51. Ghost Wall – Sarah Moss
Honest Review: If tension was a foreboding book, this short work of fiction would be the CEO. This book is so beautifully researched and real, that it’s hard to keep track of it being a fictional tale. The way Moss crafts the story to be so stunningly haunting left me shaken. The book holds this sense of impending doom that is second to none, especially due to the writing of the main character, you want to reach out and help her, but there is no way to.
52. The Nightingale – Hannah Kristen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Honest Review: I was recommended this book after reading All the Light We Cannot See, an absolute masterpiece. reading the blurb i was intrigued, it seemed like another Alice Network type book, but alas, I was to be disappointed. I am sure without the high expectations this is a good book, but it just didn’t have the same depth or research the other books in this World War Two historical fiction genre have. This is a little tedious with its facts and very unenlightening about the French home front.
So what about 2021?
I would love to set the goal of 52 books in 52 weeks again, but secretly want to reach 75! So please share your favourite books, recommendations and what not either by commenting or by messaging me on social media! If you are an independent author looking for reviews, email or DM me, as I would be very excited to help!
Thank you for your support in 2020, let 2021 be full of joy and more blog adventures!
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