The end of year content isn’t over yet! Whilst lots of people are posting achievements, Spotify wrapped, beauty favourites and how far they ran on Strava (tires me out just thinking about it), I thought I’d share all the books I rated 5 stars in 2020!
I read a total of 39 books (I finished warm bodies about 4am on January 1st and Goodreads hadn’t reset yet, so I’m counting it) out of my goal of 12 and there was a huge variety. Some books I didn’t rate at all because I was so vastly indifferent to them, some books that made me stop reading for three months (looking at you Noughts and Crosses series…) and some books that immediately made me want to write my own stories and get excited about creating. Let’s jump right in!
- The Future for Curious People, Gregory Sherl
I picked this one up from High Peak Bookstore (available on bookshop.org during the pandemic!) which is a massive discount book shop near where I used to go on family holidays. The concept of being able to glimpse into your own potential future with someone and how it could change is so interesting, it would definitely be incredibly tempting but dangerously addictive.
I love storylines with seemingly unrelated characters that all come together at the end and it was all very sweet, as well as being a relatively short easy read! Very cosy.
- Turtles All The Way Down, John Green
This is the only book this year I managed to read in a day! I had a long train ride to Birmingham and back to my first wedding fair of my engagement and whilst that should have been the highlight of my day (and don’t get me wrong, it was amazing), this book just took my peak interest.
I generally find John Green a little hit and miss and that’s why I put off ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ for so long but there was no way I was going to not finish this in a day. It absolutely gripped me, there was an element of murder mystery and the way that he writes about OCD and mental illness is just beautiful. I don’t know how he writes from the perspective of teenage girls so well but it’s one of the most immersive stories I read in 2020. Absolutely adored it, but perhaps one not to read if you’re a bit funny about germs or hand gel in a pandemic…
- All The Bright Places, Jennifer Niven
Another one about mental health with a duel perspective, but ‘All The Bright Places’ lived up to all the expectations I’d seen about it. It was beautiful and real and heartbreaking in equal measure. It felt quite similar to a John Green story in that respect and sometimes I muddle up this book and ‘Turtles All The Way Down’ in my head. ‘All The Bright Places’ is definitely a read with a very sad ending, but the message of hope throughout is just stunning.
- Love, Rosie, Cecelia Ahern
I think this is the most cleverly written book I read this year – to tell a story exclusively through written communication, texts, letters and emails, with no external narrative or third person perspective was so clever. I loved the way the story consistently progressed and the character’s got older almost effortlessly. It was a long book but the only way it felt long was how heavy and awkward the paperback was to hold. I read ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls shortly after I read ‘Love, Rosie’ and I can definitely see that Cecelia Ahern has taken a very similar concept but, I think, made it much more accessible. ‘One Day’ was lovely, but felt a little formal in places. ‘Love, Rosie’ was so wonderful and I really need to watch the film.
- The Eve Illusion, Giovanna and Tom Fletcher
The ‘Eve of Man’ trilogy (or, will be trilogy) firmly placed itself as my favourite book series ever (sorry ‘Harry Potter’, but JK isn’t that great). I think ‘The Eve Illusion’ was the only book I pre-ordered this year and I was obsessed. The last page has stuck with me more than I can comprehend but I can’t say why without massively spoiling it…
This trilogy has the vibes of being as successful as ‘The Hunger Games’ or maybe even ‘Harry Potter’, I just adore it, I want to be in the movie but I’m 100% the wrong age. This is the book that made me want to create and work on my own novel.
- On The Other Side, Carrie Hope Fletcher
I’ve tried reading this book twice before and never made it past the same point, I know now that ironically if I’d read one more chapter I’d have been hooked right through to the end.
I love how Carrie writes – so whimsical and magical but so raw and real simultaneously. I now want to work my way through her entire back catalogue of novels and I’ve got ‘All That She Can See’ on my list for this year and I’m waiting for the paperback of ‘In The Time We Lost’ to be released.
‘On The Other Side’ is a fantastic interpretation of life after death and gives a wonderful insight into a woman’s life who is almost too perfect – too kind, too talented, too loving, but still I couldn’t stop reading her story. It’s a lovely read, a wonderful cosy tale of family, sacrifice and a little bit of magic.
- Love at First Like, Hannah Orenstein
I picked up this book in a 3 for £5 deal at The Works thinking it would be the kind of cringey chick lit that I hate, but the story being about social media peaked my marketing interest. But then it wasn’t cringey at all, it wasn’t as completely orientated around lies as I’d thought it would be (bad communication and not being honest really grinds my gears). I love stories and characters that feel real and aren’t beyond the realm of realism and the cast of this story were just wonderful and the ending was so sweet and fun. Made me excited for my own wedding, if I’m honest!
- Our Child of the Stars, Stephen Cox
The second of the 3 for £5 books (I’ve used this deal from the Works far too many times) and a very different story – an alien ship crash lands in a small American town and a Nurse takes care of the little alien boy who just lost his mum. I know I just said I like realistic stories and characters, but my favourites within that are fantasy/sci-fi stories that are so well integrated they could be real, or a story universe so well established that I feel I could live there.
This tale of finding family, protecting what’s right and taking control of your own power is so much fun and I’m really excited for the sequel which I think it being released this year.
(also the author followed me back on Twitter when I posted my review, so thanks Stephen Cox)
- If I Stay, Gayle Forman
My only re-read of 2020 because I wanted to read the sequel ‘Where She Went’ but it had been so long since I read the original and boy I love ‘If I Stay’.
Teenage romance just gets me, even though as a 24 year old I have a much more cynical view of ‘love’ and I often think they’re children they don’t know enough about life to really love each other but we’ve all been there, whether it was a first relationship or an imaginary relationship with a boyband (definitely not speaking from experience…).
When tragedy hits teenage romance the supernatural kicks in and the female protagonist I can’t remember the name of (oops?) is essentially a ghost and can hear everything going on around her. It was an incredibly well written take on the impact of tragedy and the persistence of young love. ‘Where She Went’ was also good and I’m pretty sure I ranked it at 4 Stars, but it just didn’t quite hit the same as ‘If I Stay’. That’s another film I need to watch I think!
- Blame, Jeff Abbot
This is another one from the discount warehouse that I took a chance on because it was discounted. I never thought I was that into murder mystery or crime book but wow it turns out I am. Although in the adult section (not in a naughty way), I’d definitely consider it to be a YA novel as the protagonist is in her first year of college and I think that’s part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much, because I’m only a little bit older than that (let’s not think about how much older please).
Not only a crime novel, but a protagonist with amnesia who can’t remember why she was in a car accident that killed her neighbour’s son – with backlash from her mother who wants her in a mental institution, ‘friends’ who know more than they say and a murderer who wants to stay hidden, the story is an immense revelation of a girl who just wants her memory back. I loved Blame and can’t wait to read the other book from Jeff Abbot that is on my tbr!
- Noughts and Crosses, Malorie Blackman
I know I said the ‘Noughts and Crosses’ series inadvertently stopped me reading for three months, but I mean the other three books following the first one. I loved ‘Noughts and Crosses’ (hence the 5 star review) but the rest of the series was awful and because of who I am as a person I put too much faith in giving the other three books a chance only to be disappointed by whiny characters that are all melodramatic and annoying and don’t communicate properly.
‘Noughts and Crosses’, though, was an incredibly interesting take on if racism was reversed – if white people were considered the minority and treated unfairly due to their skin colour. The story follows Sephy and Callum as they grow up together, falling in love despite their differences and Sephy’s superior position in society. The ending is beautifully tragic, it made me think so deeply about the systemic racism in our society and the internalised racism that I’ve grown up with in a position of white privilege. I have a couple of other books about racism that I bought around the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and they’re definitely on my tbr for 2021.
- A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, Holly Jackson
I thought this would be my last book of the year and I picked it out despite my system (read alphabetically by author’s surname because I hate making decisions and choices) because I’d been struggling so much with reading and needed something I was excited about. And boy o was that the right decision – another crime murder mystery book I didn’t think I’d enjoy but make it YA about an aspiring journalist doing an EPQ and applying for Cambridge University then I get (good) flashbacks to my school days and can get behind someone who’s really enthusiastic about school.
But the murder mystery itself was so clever – I didn’t predict the end until it was happening and the conclusion and bravery of protagonist Pip was exhilarating. I read the last 100 pages on Christmas night because every chapter was just another cliffhanger. I’m trying to keep myself on a book buying ban until I’d read all the ones I’ve got, but ‘Good Girl, Bad Blood’ is right up there on the list of books I would like to read immediately.
- Warm Bodies, Isaac Marion
I really didn’t think I’d finish this in 2020, but 4am on New Years Day before the Goodreads app challenge has reset counts, right?
A friend recommended and leant me her copy of ‘Warm Bodies’ and having seen and enjoyed the film, I was ready for a good zombie story. I remember the internal narrative of protagonist R compared to the characters limited speech and movement being incredibly interesting from a storytelling perspective and it was only enhanced in the book. Knowing the ending meant I could spot his changes and developments more easily, but it still made it so rewarding to see him as a character noticing and being very self-aware.
In some ways it gave me kind of ‘Twilight’ vibes but in a much better way. The characters aren’t very ‘romantic’, per say, but their relationship is sweet. A really good book to tie off the year with, for sure.
If you like reading my thoughts and words on books, I’ve just set up a new book instagram account called @sophiesreading where I’m really enjoying posting and finding new people to follow.
Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!