4 out of 5 stars
On Stephanie's Etsy Shop
On various online retailers listed here on books2read
4 out of 5 stars
That time of the year again....
Usually I do a Top Twenty, but I haven't found so much reading time this year. Out of the fifty-five-ish books I have read or started to read (not all of them reviewed on this blog), I have chosen my ten favourites, which is actually twelve, because two of them have a sequel or related book that I liked just as much. They were not necessarily published in 2020, but this is when I read them.
At the bottom are three other books that were my nearly-favourites, so it's really fifteen, I suppose! Please note - when reviewing, I may on occasion give a book 4.5* or possibly even 5* because I feel it is worthy of that rating, even if it wasn't quite my thing; I try to always review objectively. This list, however, is made up simply of those I loved the most.
These are in no particular order, but they all come with my highest recommendation. If you click the title of the book, it will take you to my full review, with Amazon and Goodreads links.
~ Tudor historical fiction ~
~ 19th/early 20th century historical fiction ~
~ Contemporary Drama ~
~ Memoir ~
~Photography, with non-fiction historical text~
~6th-7th Century Historical Fiction~
~ Victorian Murder Mystery ~
~ Post-Apocalyptic ~
~ Post-Apocalyptic ~
(I said 'no particular order', but, okay, the following are my top three 😉)
~ 10th Century Icelandic Historical Fiction ~
~ Post-Apocalyptic ~
~ Tudor Historical Fiction ~
I'd also like to give a mention for these three, that almost made the top ten:
Obsession by Robin Storey
~ Psychological thriller novella ~
~ SciFi/Climate Change/Dystopian ~
~ Dark Contemporary Fiction ~
📚 Happy Reading! 📚
How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member. I couldn't resist that gorgeous cover, even before I read the blurb!
In a Nutshell: Romance and family dramas, set in Hawaii, California and Cambodia
This book was not as I expected from the blurb. I did enjoy much of it, even though I was expecting to read about human relationships in general, travel, adventures in and the cultures of countries far away; however, this aspect of it does not start until Part 5, at 72% in the Kindle version. For the most part, this book is a romance.
Luna and Lucien are two rather humourless, intense young people, both so introspective that I felt the powerful love between them was more about seeing a reflection of themselves in each other. They meet because Luna leaves her journal in a café they both frequent, and Lucien finds and reads it. I liked the beginning of the book, when Luna is young and spends her summers with her beloved grandmother in Hawaii; this came alive for me, making me feel nostalgic for a place I had never been to, which is always a good sign. The grandmother was lovely, and I enjoyed reading about the life there. As Luna grows older, falls in love for the first time and discovers secrets about her family, her naïveté is a little irritating, and I found Lucien's obsession with her and her journal a little creepy.
I could easily have skipped the drawn-out detail about their love affair to get to by far the most interesting part of the book: Luna's experiences in Cambodia. I had limited knowledge about this country, and what I read made me want to find out more, so this certainly ticked a box.
As for the writing itself, it flows very well, and the author writes nicely, though I found the dialogue rather unrealistic, particularly between Luna and Lucien. Much of the book is written in journal entry and letters between the two main characters, a structure I like, and alternates between their two points of view. I found the main characters too bland to care much what happened between or to them, but this is only personal taste; other readers may see this story as a beautiful romance. Had there been more about Hawaii and Cambodia and less about Lucien and Luna's self-absorption, I might have loved it.
How I discovered this book: I've read loads of Blake Crouch books and hadn't bought one in a while, so I took an Amazon browse and decided on this one.
In a Nutshell: Parallel lives and time travel.
Scientist Helena's life's work is making a memory device - a 'chair' - that can extract memories from the brain and store them. The purpose of this is to help her mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer's. Out of the blue, she is approached by entrepreneur Marcus Slade, who wants to fund her project. She little realises that Slade has other plans...
Barry is a cop whose daughter died when she was fifteen; this death led to the break-up of his marriage. When his world collides with Helena's, the fate of the entire human race is affected.
I admit to getting slightly lost with the science in this book, as I didn't absolutely understand how the reliving of memories could work in the way they did, though this is perhaps because I found it difficult to think of time as anything other than linear; I'd be about to grasp it then not understand the next bit. It amounts to time travel, as Helena goes back to her sixteenth birthday over and over again, in an effort to alter the catastrophic outcome of the technology that she created and Slade misused.
I did enjoy reading it, and I liked all the parallel life stuff; it is clear that this book has involved an incredible amount of work and thinking through, and I love the way Mr Crouch writes, generally, but it's not my favourite of his books (my favourites are Abandon, and his collection of short stories, Fully Loaded). I found it overly complicated, and ended up just reading it as a story without trying to understand exactly what was happening. It has a good ending, which I always appreciate.
How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.
In A Nutshell: Light mystery set in Florida
Art lecturer Jane Chasen is recently widowed and moves from Detroit to live within a community in Florida. Shortly after her arrival, she admires a neighbour's unusual art installation - but then a murder takes place. Detective Jesse Singer wants her help when dissecting the art angle of the case, and together with friend Kim and neighbour George, Jane sets out to help solve the mystery. Also involved is FBI agent Barb, who has a special relationship with George.
It's clear from the book that Ms Harrison is familiar with this part of Florida, and she makes it sound idyllic. There is quite a lot of most interesting detail about Jane's loveless marriage to the late Stan, and I couldn't help feeling glad for her that she was able to start this new chapter in her life, despite the difficulties with her daughter, who accuses her of being glad her father is dead. Jane is fifty-five; I very much liked the way in which she is not written as an 'older woman', but simply how your average fifty-five year old is, these days - still wearing cool clothes, being up for adventure and new experiences, and a new love relationship. She could have been any age from thirty to sixty-five-ish.
The novel is nicely written, perfectly presented, and a cosy 'easy read'; the sort of story to be relax with after a long, busy day. Good for women who want to read about older female main characters - and I must just drop this quote in, that I really liked:
'Jane felt bad for George. Young people didn't get it. Love wasn't fate or soul mates, it was just hormones that evaporated with time.'
How I discovered this book: Twitter
In A Nutshell: A collection of historical long-short stories by various authors, all on the subject of betrayal.
This is a fine collection—it is rare to find an anthology by many authors without a weak moment here and there, but this is such. The stories follow on through time, chronologically, starting with Death At Feet of Venus, set in Roman times, by Derek Birks, and ending with a modern day story featuring alternative history, The Idealist by Alison Morton.
The stories you like best will depend on your preferences for writing style and the periods that interest you most; my favourites were House Arrest by Judith Arnopp, about Margaret Beaufort, who is one of my historical heroes—I highly recommend Ms Arnopp's series about her, incidentally—and Love to Hatred Turn'd by Annie Whitehead, set in the 10th century; Ms Whitehead has that knack of making you feel as though you are sitting within the king's great hall in the kingdom of Wessex, as you are reading. I also very much liked All Those Tangled Webs by Anna Belfrage, which covers the time in 1330 just after Edward II had died, and Road to The Tower by Elizabeth St. John, about the lead up to the imprisonment of Princes Edward and Richard, who famously disappeared from the Tower of London.
I bow with respect to all involved. Highly recommended.