My 5 Star 2020 Reads!

2021, books

Hello!

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.

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!

Sophie xx

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the best books I’ve read this year (so far)

2020, books

Hello!

I feel like I haven’t written a book blog post in ages and I’m feeling incredibly invested in what I’m reading at the moment so I thought I’d channel that energy here! That might be the most pretentious sentence I’ve ever written.

I feel like I may have said this a million times before but some brief context; I was the kid that would sneak out of bed and stay up reading, fell out of love with it as I had to study books I didn’t like and decided a couple of years ago that I wanted to get back into it with the help of reading challenges on the ‘goodreads‘ app – made it to 9 of last year’s target of 12 and as I didn’t meet the target I set the same one-a-month target for 2020.

I’ve currently read 34 books.

So I thought I’d write a shortlist of those 34 books of the ones I’ve absolutely adored! I write mini reviews on my Instagram if you want to see what I’m reading and my ongoing thoughts but I thought I’d collate my favourites for anyone who’s in a reading rut and wants some inspiration, wants to try something new or just fancies reading something book-ish!

Mild disclaimer: I will link to all these books on Amazon however if you have a local independent bookstore or retailer I highly support seeing if they have it or ordering through them, especially in the current covid economic climate!


I love ‘fantasy realism’ as a genre, where there’s an element of fantasy but it’s so well integrated into ‘normal’ human life that it almost doesn’t feel like fantasy. So when there’s a service where someone can see their future with a person, generally a romantic relationship, the gossip, reality TV ‘realness’ of it all is just the recipe for the perfect book.

Interesting and realistic characters are something that really grabs me and is a huge factor as to why I rated all of these books at 5 stars, but the concept in The Future for Curious People is so much fun and the ending is wonderful.

I asked for this book for Christmas the year it came out and it’s taken me two years to read it. I decided to read it on a long train journey to Birmingham to meet my mum to go to a wedding fair and whilst I was very excited about the wedding fair, boy o boy all I wanted to do was get back to the book. The whole mystery, teenage drama aspect mixed with a painfully relatable depiction of mental health (and helped me understand symptoms I don’t suffer with) meant I finished this book in one day – absolutely devoured the first half on the way there and nearly finished it on the way back; I had to drive home and finish the last 60 pages before I picked up my boyfriend from work because I was so absorbed.

John Green books are a bit hit and miss for me – I loved The Fault In Our Stars like every other 20-something (though I’ve never watched the film because I don’t think it’ll be as good) but I never massively enjoyed his other books. The style is a little pretentious – all of his characters are into niche poetry and philosophy and take themselves a little bit too seriously, but I think once I accepted that it’s just how John Green characters are and I loved so many other aspects of this book more than those parts annoyed me. I still gave it 5 stars.

I avoided buying this for ages because it was everywhere and everyone was reading it and I’m that kind of hipster. But inevitably I picked it up and it was Worth! The! Hype!

Another story about mental health and the ending really gets you but the two differing perspectives on similar mental illnesses and how the characters are so opposite but so puzzle piece perfect is just magical and the kind of character writing I can only aspire to.

This book actually has a John Green feel in it’s somewhat self-important characters but it was wonderful and I devoured it in just a couple of days. Definitely worth the hype!

  • Love, Rosie (Cecelia Ahern) (originally ‘Where Rainbows End’)

I picked up the film edition of this book mostly because of Lily Collins and Sam Claflin on the cover but avoided reading it because wow it is a chunky read. But surprisingly quick to get through once you realise it’s all told in letters – from childhood to old age the main character Rosie progresses through life, love and loss with letters, emails, texts, passing notes and other forms of communication that I’ve forgotten about but it’s such an interesting narrative that never explicitly says ‘2 years later’ or ‘three months later’ but as a reader, you know that time has passed. It’s just brilliant.

I’m not sure how the original title of ‘Where Rainbows End’ really suits the book, maybe because I’ve only ever known it as ‘Love, Rosie’ I couldn’t see the connection but that is the original novel’s title so if you are struggling to find it, check ‘Where Rainbow’s End’!

I fully intended for this to be one of the only books I bought this year as a new release… then I hit my goodreads goal in three months and needed some more books to read… Regardless, I’ve been buzzing about this sequel ever since I read ‘Eve of Man‘ in approximately two days last year. I love the concept, I love the characters, I love the world building and how painfully believable a world that derelict is and the sequel didn’t disappoint.

If I’m being brutally honest, I didn’t think it was as good as the original, but not in a bad way – I still adored it – I just felt that it was a bit like ‘The Two Towers’ in Lord of the Rings; it’s there to move the story along in a trilogy so it has to be there but it’s not the most exciting part.

Eve gets a little bit bratty, everyone gets a little bit melodramatic, I loved the inclusion of the third perspective in the different chapters and the twist at the end was so obvious I saw it coming from a mile away but still made me double take for a second (I thought she might be a time lord, if you’ve read it, you know!). Eagerly anticipating the last novel in the trilogy!

I really rated the Fletcher writers this year! This is Carrie’s first fiction novel and having struggled to read it twice before and realising this time that if I’d have read just one more chapter I’d have been hooked till the end always makes me laugh.

Another wonderful version of fantastical realism that takes you by surprise a little bit (lifting written words from a birds wings and putting them in a notebook did make me question the writing just a little bit until I remembered… fantasy). The love story that just wasn’t meant to be, I thought the characters were going to be much more ‘idyllic’ like early Disney Princess-esque where everyone is swept off their feet and everything’s too perfect but it wasn’t like that at all. It was lovely and as the story moves more into the modern day I could feel my heart being given in pieces to each character.

I can’t wait to read more of Carrie’s novels this year – I read When The Curtain Falls last year and I think I’ve got All That She Can See on my shelf to read at some point!

This book I picked up dirt cheap in a 3 for £5 sale at The Works – I wasn’t sure whether I wanted it because the whole premise of the book is based on a massive lie and I hate when characters make things difficult for themselves by not communicating openly. But it didn’t actually annoy me at all – there was a couple of really cringey moments but all round it was a sweet, heart warming book about the spontaneity of social media, the importance of family and not taking those you meet at face value.

Another one in the sale from the Works but much more sci-fi/fantasy – a meteor crash in a small town in the US (obviously, it could only be the US!) disguises an alien spaceship landing and two unidentified creatures are saved from the wreck. Another heartwarming story about family beyond blood relations and accepting people for all their quirks. Looking forward to the sequel!

One of my newer books and probably my first adult crime novel though it had very YA vibes. A 19 year old girl tries to navigate life as a college drop-out refusing to live with her mother at home following a car accident in which her friend died and she survived, but with a severe case of amnesia she remembers nothing from before she started high school, including her dad’s death. With many twists and turns and wondering if you can trust the narrative of the protagonist herself, so many things unfold about the true reason behind the crash and the real reason David died.

Genuinely amazing story – I’ve never read a book where I felt like I couldn’t quite trust the person telling the story and it was so interesting! I have another book by Jeff Abbott on my shelf but it’s the second in the series so I’m going to buy the prequel when I’ve read through all the other books on my shelf.

A book that was huge when I was in school but I read so slowly that I never got round to it. Seeing it recommended over and over again in the light of the Black Lives Matter movement, when I saw the whole series on offer in the Works (it’s such a good place for books!) I knew I had to pick it up.

Learning about the privilege of my race through fiction was always going to be the way to help me best understand – I’ve never been able to apply so much of what I’m reading to real life and feel like I’m really learning from it. It was so eye opening and heartbreaking in equal measure and I can’t wait to read the other books I picked up to continue my education on racial inequality.

Couldn’t recommend this book more highly if you find non-fiction difficult to get into but want to educate yourself – amazing characters, so eye opening, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.


Did I plan for there to be 10 books in my highlight of 2020 so far? Absolutely not but I do find it incredibly satisfying.

I’m currently reading the third book in the Noughts and Crosses series ‘Checkmate’ by Malorie Blackman so if you want to see my thoughts on that when I finish it hop on over to my Instagram!

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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what I’ve read so far this year

2019, books

Hello!

When I sat down to write this blog post I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to write about – I love blogging so much, so usually I can just sit at my computer and find something to ramble passionately about but today? Nothing. I’d spent all day doing uni work for my PG Cert course and nothing was coming to mind.

I even Googled ‘blog post ideas’ seeing if that would spark anything but advice to anyone thinking about starting a blog – don’t Google blog post ideas. They’re never that good and definitely not original.

So I started scrolling through instagram – my feed is a creative hub of friends and other creators and browsing through posts, it wasn’t till I thought about my own posts that I actually decided what I wanted to write about (how vain is that?).

One of my New Year’s Resolutions (or 2019 Goals, however you want to word it) was to read one book every month and I’ve already finished my book for June so I’m feeling genuinely really pleased with myself that I’ve managed to integrate reading back into my nightly routine.

Today, I’m going to do a little run down of all the books I’ve read so far this year. If you like this post and want me to do another round up at the end of the year, do let me know!

In chronological order, let’s go!

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I set myself the challenge this year of reading 12 books – one a month. I used to be the kid that snuck out of bed to keep reading and studying English at school destroyed any previous love for reading but I'm determined to get it back! ✨ My first book of the year was @louisepentland's Wilde About The Girl – I read the first in the series when I went to Louise and Carrie Fletcher's book event last summer (I know I should have read it before) and absolutely fell in love with Robin Wilde – she's sassy and funny but she's flawed, she thought she needed a man to love her and sometimes she wore her pyjamas for the school run but she was so real. I'm not the target audience for this series but I bloody loved it and somehow I loved Wilde About The Girl even more. It was raw and emotional and laugh out loud funny, there were twists and turns and love and friendship and it was all round a feel good book. It was so easy to read, difficult to put down and the perfect holiday book – I thoroughly recommend it, even if you don't think a book about a mum in her late twenties is for you, Robin will wiggle her way into your heart. Can't wait for book 3 💜 ✨ I think I want to do a little review like this after each book I finish – I never thought I'd finish my first book of the month only halfway through but I'm thoroughly enjoying reading before bed, 2019 is going to be such a good year. Up next – when the curtain falls by @carriehopefletcher 🎭 ✨ #bookreview #book #bookstagram #reader #readagram #wildeaboutthegirl #wildelikeme #robinwilde #louisepentland #writer #blogger #lifestyleblogger #shinyhappybloggers #smallblogger #discoverunder100k #vlogger #smallyoutuber #linkinbio #throughthelens #canoneosm10 #thatsdarling #creative #freelance #digitalcreative #contentcreator #copywriter #pa #freelancelife

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Wilde About The Girl – Louise Pentland

My second attempt at finishing this novel – I read the first in the series in the run up to meeting the author at a book event last summer and I fell in love. ‘Wilde Like Me’ was the reason I wanted to get back into reading this year and on the second attempt of ‘Wilde About The Girl’ I was on a roll!

I’ve never really been into chick lit – I love fantasy and magic and space and adventure, but there was something beautifully mundane about Robin Wilde’s story. I commented at the time that it was like reading a vlog in someone’s life and it was cosy and lovely. Genuinely I’d recommend it to everyone – an emotional but beautiful read!

When The Curtain Falls – Carrie Hope Fletcher

At the same book event as I met Louise, Carrie was also promoting this beautiful novel. I’ve tried one of Carrie’s books before and enjoyed it but just couldn’t get into it enough to finish it.

At the beginning, I felt similarly about When The Curtain Falls – with a history in performance and musical theatre, I was invested in the story but it wasn’t until 200 pages in that I couldn’t put it down. It was as I was nearing the end of the book that I realised ‘this isn’t the set up anymore, this is it!’ and I read the final 100 or so pages in one night.

Utterly thrilling, a beautiful telling of romance and love and unsuspecting characters. Again, would whole heartedly recommend.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

Oh Eleanor, we had a difficult relationship. All the things I’d seen people say about how the book was hilarious and gripping from page 1, I didn’t get. It took me over a month to finish this because I found Eleanor arrogant, rude and uninteresting as a character.

Then the story developed, the introduction to one key character kept me hooked and by the end I wanted to protect Eleanor with every fibre of my being – she’s an incredibly complex character that I feel honoured to have been given the opportunity to understand.

If you’re struggling with Eleanor’s story, I highly recommend pushing through to the end because you’ll be rooting for this girl I promise.

We All Looked Up – Tommy Wallach

An existential story about four teenagers at the end of the world? Yes please.

A lot of my books are YA and young YA at that – I bought them when my family used to go on holiday in Derbyshire and there was the most incredible bookshop where I could buy 10+ books for £30-£40 and it was my heaven. I picked up hundreds of books most of which went unread because I simply never would have had time to read that much.

When I moved back from uni I sorted through all my books and donated about two-thirds to charity, most of which had never been read but the ones I did keep I really wanted to read.

And that’s where ‘We All Looked Up’ slots in! It’s a very interesting narrative told from four different perspectives about what the potential end of the universe can do to all sides of society. I don’t want to spoil it in any way, but it’s a really humbling read that really nails the key aspects of humanity.

Hold On – Alan Gibbon

The first book of the year I haven’t really rated – ‘Hold On’ is about a boy who has committed suicide and his friend’s attempt to figure out what went wrong. Told from the modern day perspective of his friend and diary entries leading up to the end of his life, it’s a very mixed tale about who’s to blame.

As someone who has suffered with mental health problems, I found it very hard to empathise and very difficult to read about so many characters who had such a trivial and incorrect understanding of how depression can manifest. I came to the conclusion that I think that was the point – I think it’s meant to be an uncomfortable read. But I didn’t enjoy it, because parts of it didn’t feel intentional, they just felt naive.

I’ll be donating my copy, that’s all I’ll say.

And last but not least!

One Seriously Messed Up Week in the Otherwise Mundane and Uneventful Life of Sam Taylor Jack Samsonite – Tom Clempson

The one that hasn’t even made it to my instagram yet! This book (I’m not writing out that title again) is another very YA one about 16 year old ‘Jack’ navigating GCSEs, girls, friends, not friends and a couple much more sinister (but not too dark, it’s still YA) topics.

I feel like there’s not too much I can say without completely spoiling the book. It’s not really comparable to ‘Wilde About The Girl’ in any way but the sort of mundanity of it all is similar. There’s a few melodramatic teenage bits but as a 22 year old reader it’s about a teenager getting worked up about teenage things and it’s almost refreshing to be able to complete separate myself from all that knowing I no longer than categorise myself with teenagers.

A fun read, a solid 4/5.

And that’s what I’m reading this year – I always post little reviews on my Instagram so if you want to keep up with what I’m reading either follow me there or add me on goodreads! Sometimes I forget to update my page count for a few days but my most up to date reads are all on there!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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