Hello, bookish friends! Long time, no speak!
It’s been over a year now since I last wrote on this blog, and I’ve thought at times about giving up on blogging completely. I was feeling so uninspired, not just about writing posts, but about reading books too.
I feel like I’ve been in a year long reading slump. I *have* read some good books in the past 12 months, but I’ve read way more forgettable ones, and I’m reading at a much slower pace now compared with how voraciously I used to devour books.
I’ve been trying my best to read when I can, and not worry/put pressure on myself about the pace. I’ve read almost 30 books so far this year, and I’m pretty proud of that considering what a shitshow 2020 has been for each and every one of us. How can we be expected to concentrate?! (I’ve spent a considerably larger amount of time doomscrolling on Twitter, or playing Animal Crossing New Horizons in my pyjamas, than I have reading books, but I can’t be alone in that, surely?!)
I was going to do a post with my quick thoughts on all of the books I’ve read so far in 2020, however when I looked back at my list, I realised I’ve forgotten a lot about most of them! One of them I had no memory of reading at all! (Sorry, All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth!)
So, with that being said, I’m just going to talk to you today about some of the books I ACTUALLY remember reading this year! Without further ado…
The Night Country by Melissa Albert
This is the sequel to The Hazel Wood, and I loved how dark and twisty it was. I liked the way the fairytale aspects were interwoven into the urban setting, but my favourite parts took place in the fairytale world of the ‘hinterland’. Such a creepy, messed up world, and so exciting to read about. I can’t say much as this book is a sequel, but if you’re interested in finding out more about the series you can read my original review of the first book here.
The Little Book of Self Care by Joanna Gray
This sounds kinda harsh, but ugh, I hated this book! It had no substance to it, and the self care advice was stuff like ‘buy yourself a new lipstick’. Oh sure, that’ll cure my crippling depression, thanks!
The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray
I read this because I was considering giving up alcohol at the beginning of the year, but then there was a whole global pandemic and I decided I needed to keep wine in my life. This is the memoir of a woman who was an alcoholic, detailing the story of how she became sober. It was really gripping, and although I don’t have a dependency on alcohol, I could definitely recognise the unhealthy parts of my relationship with it in Catherine’s story. Her journey to sobriety was really inspiring to read about.
Get a Life, Chloe Brown – Talia Hibbert
This was a cute romance, with brilliant chronic pain/fatigue rep! The love interest was okay, but the main character Chloe was amazing. She was sarcastic, dry, aloof and just generally swoonworthy! Definitely my book crush of 2020.
The Factory – Hiroko Oyamada
This was a super weird little book where we follow three people who have completely meaningless jobs at this gigantic factory where strange things are happening to the surrounding flora & fauna, for example rodents along the riverbank growing to impossible, freakishly large sizes. It didn’t have much of a plot, and was kind of boring in places, but it did have this weird/mysterious vibe which kept me reading, and I liked the surreal ending. In some ways, I think the boring parts were a deliberate attempt to reflect the mundane jobs of the characters. There was something I kind of dug about this one, and I would potentially re-read it in future to see what I get out of it a second time around.
The Test by Sylvain Nouvel
This was a cool, creepy, sci-fi novella about a futuristic British Citizenship test. Lots of Black Mirror vibes, and raises some very valid questions and criticisms about our country’s attitude towards immigration. I only wish it had been longer and had gone into more depth.
The Switch by Beth O’Leary
A cute romantic fluffy story about a woman and her grandmother swapping lives/houses etc. (The Holiday style) for a few months in order to gain a fresh perspective on life and love. The grandmother was a brilliant character; I loved her chapters, and her adorable romance with the crotchety next door neighbour. However, I wasn’t that fussed about the granddaughter as a character, and her romantic storyline was very insta-lovey. I liked this book, but I loved Beth’s other book, The Flatshare, more.
Queenie by Candace Carty-Williams
This is a fantastic book following our main character Queenie and her experiences with sex and dating as she attempts to get over a painful relationship breakup. This book has some light and funny moments but also explores heavier topics such as the objectification/fetishization of black women, destructive/harmful sexual relationships, and mental health difficulties. It’s a book that made me both laugh and cry, and had a very strong and unique sense of voice – Queenie is a character who will stick with me.
Loveless by Alice Oseman
This is the story of Georgia who has just started university and is figuring out her sexuality/coming to terms with the fact that she’s asexual and aromantic. I loved Georgia as a character, and loved the validating message that not wanting a romantic relationship does not make you weird or lesser in some way. It’s great to see some ace rep, and I believe this is own voices too. I loved the way Georgia’s friendships were portrayed and the importance given to them. Friendships so often take a backseat to romantic relationships in YA, yet they are just as important, if not more so. This book gave me so much nostalgia about my own time at uni, too – the setting was so well written.
Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
This was a really weird book, and I’m still not sure whether I loved it or hated it. I think I loved it! It’s set at a secretive, isolated, prestigious college for the academically gifted, who must relinquish all contact with the outside world during the 3 years they study there. Many of the students opt to study a mysterious substance known as ‘plasm’, and there is something pretty strange and sinister going on behind the locked doors of the laboratory. It’s such an intriguing premise, the writing is gorgeous and dreamlike, but it is incredibly slow, and VERY ambiguous. If you like your questions answered at the end of a book, don’t read this one. It’s one of those books I’m dying to re-read, however. I love me some weird gothic fiction!
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
This is quite possibly my favourite book of the year so far, closely tied with the next one I’m going to mention. This story follows a woman named Nora who commits suicide and finds herself in a magical library between life and death where every book contains a different possible life she could have led if she’d made different choices. This book was so well told, so life affirming, and had me in tears by the end. It really touched my heart and gave me a new way of looking at both the good and the bad things that have happened in my life. The depression and anxiety representation is own voices, and Matt Haig’s writing about mental health always strikes a chord with me. It feels like reading my own thoughts, feelings and worries, but rewoven into a wonderful story that I will undoubtedly read again and again.
The Places I’ve Cried in Public by Holly Bourne
This book, surprise surprise, made me cry. It tells the story of an emotionally abusive relationship, through the lens of that relationship having ended, and the main character Amelie going back to all of the places her boyfriend Reece made her cry, reflecting on their relationship, and coming to terms with the fact that it was, in fact, abuse. This was absolutely gut-wrenching. I felt everything Amelie was feeling, and I was so desperate for her to realise her own self-worth and begin to heal. I rooted for her so strongly, and went on such a huge emotional journey with her. I read this in one sitting, finishing it up at around 3am with tears all over my face and book! I love Holly Bourne’s Spinster Club Trilogy, but I believe this is the best book she has ever written, and hugely important. I want every teenage girl to read this, and if they are going through something similar, to recognise that through Amelie’s story and seek the support they need.
So, that’s it for this little 2020 wrap up! What has been your favourite book so far this year? I’d love to catch up with you, and I’m sorry it’s been so long! I decided to start posting again because I miss book-blogging so much, and I really hope I’ll be sticking around this time.
Lots of bookish love to you all, love Jess xxx