Categories
Year In Review

My 20 Favourites of 2020

I can’t quite believe that 2020 is over! It’s been a strange year and I think we’re all hoping that 2021 brings better things and that we can soon get back to a new normal.

It was my second full year of blogging and once again I read more than I had even hoped to. I had set my Goodreads challenge at 120 and managed to read 177. That’s 27 more than in 2019.

As you can probably imagine, reading so many books made putting together my favourite twenty books of the year a difficult task. That last spot in particular had four other books that I really wanted to include and it was a real struggle to know which should make the final spot.

Here is my list in the order that I read the books:

  1. Firewatching by Russ Thomas
  2. The Foundling by Stacey Halls
  3. Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior
  4. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
  5. The Switch by Beth O’Leary
  6. What’s Left Of Me Is Yours by Stephanie Scott
  7. What Lies Between Us by John Marrs
  8. Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten
  9. The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith
  10. The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor
  11. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
  12. All The Lonely People by Mike Gayle
  13. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
  14. Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You by Annie Lyons
  15. The Meaning of Mariah Carey by Mariah Carey
  16. The Illustrated Child by Polly Crosby
  17. The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor
  18. The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside by Jessica Ryn
  19. The Smallest Man by Frances Quinn
  20. The Last House On Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Out of the final twenty, sixteen are by new to me authors, nine of them debuts. I found that 2020 was a strong year in terms of fantastic debuts, with others such as The Phone Box at the Edge of the World, Pine, The Memory Wood, The Wreckage, The Holdout, If I Can’t Have You, Dear Child, The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon, Shiver, The Push and The Thursday Murder Club standing out in particular.

So what almost made it? Contenders for this list included Three Hours, Pine, The Memory Wood, In Five Years, The Phone Box at the Edge of the World, If I Could Say Goodbye, The Push, Strangers, Dear Child, The Ice Cream Girls, All My Lies Are True and The Thursday Murder Club.

My favourite book of the year was not a difficult choice. Though there were many that were good enough to take the title, What’s Left Of Me Is Yours is the standout book of the year for me. I can honestly say that I’ve thought about this stunning debut every day since I read it in April. Do yourself a favour and read it if you haven’t already. I’m just hoping it’s not too long before I can read another book by the talented Stephanie Scott.

Did we have any of the same favourites? What was your book of the year? Let me know in the comments.

Keep an eye out for a post tomorrow with the top 20 lists of some other bloggers and which 2020 book we recommend most of all.

*Thank you to the tagged publishers for my #gifted ARCs.

Categories
Blog Tours Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up – June 2020

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Another month has passed and we’re now half way through the year. It has flown so quickly. I just hope that the rest of the year isn’t as crazy as 2020 has been so far.

June has been a fantastic reading month for me. I read fourteen books, including my first ever audio book. It was almost fifteen books read but I didn’t quite finish Nine Elms. It was a big month for reading with others for me. I took part in a buddy read with my lovely friend Beth and three readalongs with the Tandem Collective, two of which are still going on. 

So here is what I read this month:

  1.  A Theatre For Dreamers ✮✮✮✮✰
  2.  The Split ✮✮✮✮. 5
  3.  The Lies I Tell ✮✮✮. 5
  4.  The Phone Box at the Edge of the World ✮✮✮✮. 5
  5.  I Know Your Secret ✮✮✮✮✰
  6. A Court of Thorns and Roses ✮✮✮✮✮
  7. Unbroken ✮✮✮✮✰
  8.  The Colours ✮✮✮✮✰
  9.  The Waiting Rooms ✮✮✮✮✮
  10.  The Miseducation of Evie Epworth ✮✮✮✮✰
  11. Monstrous Souls ✮✮✮✮✰
  12. The July Girls ✮✮✮✮✰
  13. The Silent Wife ✮✮✮✮✮
  14. Sadie ✮✮✮✮✰ (Audiobook)

You can read the reviews for all of the books except for Sadie by clicking on the title. My review for Sadie will be posted in the coming week.

My BOTM was a close call again but I have to give it to A Court of Thorns and Roses. I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did and it’s opened up a whole new genre for me. That’s one of the things I love about Bookstagram though, it brings books to your attention you’d never have considered reading otherwise and it’s helped me discover a wealth of books and authors I doubt I’d have ever read without it. The other books that deserve a special mention this month are The Phone Box at the Edge of the World, The Waiting Rooms, and The Miseducation of Evie Epworth. These three outstanding novels were all contenders for my book of the month and are candidates for being in my favourite books of the year so far.

In July I have a busy month full of blog tours that I’m so excited about . I’m also looking forward to seeing what books the rest of the year brings and will be posting some of the ones I’m looking forward to most in the next few weeks.

Thank you to all the tagged publishers for the gifted copies of the books.

 

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith

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Published: July 9th, 2020
Publisher: Orenda
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Adventure Fiction, Science Fiction, Urban Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this outstanding and timely thriller. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and Orenda for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Decades of spiralling drug resistance have unleashed a global antibiotic crisis. Ordinary infections are untreatable, and a scratch from a pet can kill. A sacrifice is required to keep the majority safe: no one over seventy is allowed new antibiotics. The elderly are sent to hospitals nicknamed ‘The Waiting Rooms’ … hospitals where no one ever gets well.

Twenty years after the crisis takes hold, Kate begins a search for her birth mother, armed only with her name and her age. As Kate unearths disturbing facts about her mother’s past, she puts her family in danger and risks losing everything. Because Kate is not the only secret that her mother is hiding. Someone else is looking for her, too.

Sweeping from an all-too-real modern Britain to a pre-crisis South Africa, The Waiting Rooms is epic in scope, richly populated with unforgettable characters, and a tense, haunting vision of a future that is only a few mutations away.

MY REVIEW:

“No one touches each other’s hands anymore. Not unless they’re intimate.” 

When I first heard about this book at the beginning of the year it sounded like a Sci-Fi movie; something that felt both imaginable and unimaginable. Wearing masks and gloves and being unable to touch. Illness that is untreatable and deadly. That sounded like something from the Victorian era or a third world country where they can’t afford the medicine we have.  Fast forward a few months and reading it during the current pandemic felt like getting a glimpse into our future. This book was suddenly a lot scarier and incredibly timely. 

“Do you have any idea what it’s like growing up in this ‘safe world’ of yours? How fucking suffocating it is? Nothing left to chance, endless checks and scans?

… I’ve seen the films: people rolled into bed with complete strangers! No body scans. No STD checks. No profile searches. I can’t even hug a friend without asking!”

Multilayered, exquisitely told and tightly plotted, the novel weaves through different timelines to tell the story of the Crisis and our three narrators. As long-buried secrets are slowly unearthed, the full picture emerges to a shocking conclusion. The characters are richly drawn and I have to say that I had a soft spot for Lily. I can’t imagine how awful it must be to approach an age knowing that something treatable will likely kill you as you are deemed disposable and unworthy of treatment. My own grandmother has recently beat Covid-19 at the age of 93 thanks in part to antibiotics and all I kept thinking how awful it would have been knowing she simply wasn’t getting that help because of her age. 

It is clear that the author has done a lot of research on antibiotic resistance from how intelligently written this novel is.  Even without the current pandemic this would read as something that could actually happen and it certainly made me think about things such as how we farm out animals. At the end of the book she writes about how she got her inspiration for the novel after reading frightening data about antibiotic resistance and has posted more information for readers on her website. 

The Waiting Rooms is a captivating and thrilling debut that is both topical and timely. I highly recommend this thriller and can’t wait to read more from this author.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

Eve Smith Author pic

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Eve Smith’s debut novel The Waiting Rooms was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize First Novel Award. Eve writes speculative fiction, mainly about the things that scare her. She attributes her love of all things dark and dystopian to a childhood watching Tales of the Unexpected and black-and-white Edgar Allen Poe double bills.

Eve’s flash fiction has been shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and highly commended for The Brighton Prize. In this world of questionable facts, stats and news, she believes storytelling is more important than ever to engage people in real life issues.
Eve’s previous job as COO of an environmental charity took her to research projects across Asia, Africa and the Americas, and she has an ongoing passion for wild creatures, wild science and far-flung places. A Modern Languages graduate from Oxford, she returned to Oxfordshire fifteen years ago to set up home with her husband.
When she’s not writing, she’s chasing across fields after her dog, attempting to organise herself and her family or off exploring somewhere new.

WebsiteInstagram |Twitter

BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon  |Waterstones |Google Books |Kobo

FINAL The Waiting Rooms BT Poster

Categories
Blog Tours

Emma’s Anticipated Treasures – July 2020

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Another month, another round of anticipated books.

July is a month filled with great books and July 9th is rivaling February 6th for it’s bumper publication day spot; I could have easily added another four or five books out that day.

So here are the books out in July that I’m most excited about:

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Spirited by Julie Cohen
Published: July 9th, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Historical Fiction, and as soon as I saw the cover and read the synopsis of this book I was dying to read it. I’ve been lucky enough to get a spot on the blog tour for this so look out for my review on July 16th.

SYNOPSIS:
Viola has an impossible talent. Searching for meaning in her grief, she uses her photography to feel closer to her late father, taking solace from the skills he taught her – and to keep her distance from her husband. But her pictures seem to capture things invisible to the eye . . .

Henriette is a celebrated spirit medium, carrying nothing but her secrets with her as she travels the country. When she meets Viola, a powerful connection is sparked between them – but Victorian society is no place for reckless women.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, invisible threads join Viola and Henriette to another woman who lives in secrecy, hiding her dangerous act of rebellion in plain sight.

Faith. Courage. Love. What will they risk for freedom?

Driven by passionate, courageous female characters, SPIRITED is your next unforgettable read!

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The Shadow Friend by Alex North

Published: July 9th, 2020
Publisher: Michael Joseph
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Horror Fiction, Police Procedural

The Whisper Man was one of my favourite books of last year so when I heard the author had a second book coming out it became a must-read. This one sounds just as chilling as his last book and I can’t wait to read it.

SYNOPSIS:
The victim was his friend. So was the murderer.

Twenty-five years ago, troubled teenager Charlie Crabtree committed a shocking and unprovoked murder.

For Paul Adams, it’s a day he’ll never forget. He’s never forgiven himself for his part in what happened to his friend and classmate. He’s never gone back home.

But when his elderly mother has a fall, it’s finally time to stop running.

It’s not long before things start to go wrong. A copycat killer has struck, bringing back painful memories. Paul’s mother insists there’s something in the house.

And someone is following him.

Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn’t just the murder.

It was the fact that afterwards, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again . . .

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The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith

Published: July 9th, 2020
Publisher: Orenda
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Mystery, Science Fiction, Urban Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Orenda are one of my favourite publishers. I’ve loved everything I’ve read that they publish. When I heard about this earlier this year I instantly pre-ordered it and started the count down. Who would have thought it would become so timely by the time it was released. I’m on the blog tour for this one and my review will be published on June 18th.

SYNOPSIS:
Decades of spiraling drug resistance have unleashed a global antibiotic crisis. Ordinary infections are untreatable, and a scratch from a pet can kill. A sacrifice is required to keep the majority safe: no one over seventy is allowed new antibiotics. The elderly are sent to hospitals nicknamed ‘The Waiting Rooms’ … hospitals where no one ever gets well.

Twenty years after the crisis takes hold, Kate begins a search for her birth mother, armed only with her name and her age. As Kate unearths disturbing facts about her mother’s past, she puts her family in danger and risks losing everything. Because Kate is not the only secret that her mother is hiding. Someone else is looking for her, too.

Sweeping from an all-too-real modern Britain to a pre-crisis South Africa, The Waiting Rooms is epic in scope, richly populated with unforgettable characters, and a tense, haunting vision of a future that is only a few mutations away.

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If I Can’t Have You by Charlotte Levin

Published: July 9th, 2020
Publisher: Mantle
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Urban Fiction, Domestic Fiction, Romance

I am so excited to be taking part in the blog tour for this debut thriller. Look out for my review on July 16th.

SYNOPSIS:
What if the problem with your love life is you?

If I Can’t Have You by Charlotte Levin is an all-consuming novel about loneliness, obsession and how far we go for the ones we love.

Samuel, the day we met I knew I’d finally found what I’ve been waiting for.

You.

Happiness, at last.

Then you left me.

And now I am alone.

Everyone I love leaves in the end.

But not this time.

I’m not giving up on us.

I’m not giving up on you.

When you love someone, you never let them go.

That’s why for me, this is just beginning.

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How To Disappear by Gillian McAllister

Publisher: Michael Joseph
Published: July 9th, 2020
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller,  Legal Thriller

Over the last few years Gillian McAllister has become a must-read author for me and her latest book sounds like it could be her best yet.

SYNOPSIS:
You can run, you can hide, but can you disappear for good?

Lauren’s daughter Zara witnessed a terrible crime. But speaking up comes with a price, and when Zara’s identity is revealed online, it puts a target on her back.

The only choice is to disappear.

To keep Zara safe, Lauren will give up everything and everyone she loves, even her husband.

There will be no goodbyes. Their pasts will be rewritten. New names, new home, new lives.

The rules are strict for a reason. They are being hunted. One mistake – a text, an Instagram like – could bring their old lives crashing into the new.

They can never assume someone isn’t watching, waiting.

As Lauren will learn, disappearing is easy. Staying hidden is harder . . .

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Somebody’s Daughter by Carol Wyer (Detective Natalie Ward 7)

Published: July 9th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural

The Detective Natalie Ward Series is one of my favourites and any new installment makes my most anticipated list that month. Keep an eye out for my review as part of the blog tour on July 11th.

SYNOPSIS:
One by one the girls disappeared…

When the frail body of a teenage girl is discovered strangled in a parking lot, shards of ice form in Detective Natalie Ward’s veins. As Natalie looks at the freckles scattered on her cheeks and the pale pink lips tinged with blue, she remembers that this innocent girl is somebody’s daughter…

The girl is identified as missing teenager Amelia Saunders, who has run away from home and her controlling father. Natalie’s heart sinks further when it becomes clear that Amelia has been working on the streets, manipulated by her violent new boyfriend Tommy.

A day later, another vulnerable girl is found strangled on a park bench. Like Amelia, Katie Bray was a runaway with connections to Tommy, and Natalie is determined to find him and track down the monster attacking these scared and lonely girls.

But when a wealthy young woman is found murdered the next morning, the word ‘guilty’ scrawled on her forehead, Natalie realises that the case is more complex than she first thought. Determined to establish a connection between her three victims, Natalie wastes no time in chasing down the evidence, tracing everyone who crossed their paths. Then, a key suspect’s body turns up in the canal, a mole in Natalie’s department leaks vital information and everything seems to be against her. Can Natalie stop this clever and manipulative killer before they strike again.

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All My Lies Are True by Dorothy Koomson (Ice Cream Girls 2)

Published: July 9th, 2020
Publisher: Headline
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction

In May I took part in a readalong of The Ice Cream Girls with Tandem Collective. I loved the book so much that this one instantly went on my anticipated list for this month. You can imagine my excitement when I was offered the chance to take part in a readalong of the sequel. Keep an eye out for my posts on Instagram starting around June 25th.

SYNOPSIS:
Verity is telling lies…

And that’s why she’s about to be arrested for attempted murder.

Serena has been lying for years. . .
And that may have driven her daughter, Verity, to do something unthinkable…

Poppy’s lies have come back to haunt her . . .
So will her quest for the truth hurt everyone she loves?

Everyone lies.
But whose lies are going to end in tragedy?

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The Resident by David Jackson

Published: July 16th, 2020
Publisher: Viper
Genre: Mystery, Thriller

This is another thriller I’m excited to be on the blog tour for. Look out for my review on publication day.

SYNOPSIS:
THERE’S A SERIAL KILLER ON THE RUN
AND HE’S HIDING IN YOUR HOUSE

Thomas Brogan is a serial killer. Having left a trail of bodies in his wake, and with the police hot on his heels, it seems like Thomas has nowhere left to hide. That is until he breaks into an abandoned house at the end of a terrace on a quiet street. And when he climbs up into the loft, he realises that the can drop down into all the other houses on the street through the shared attic space.

That’s when the real fun begins. Because the one thing that Thomas enjoys even more than killing, is playing games with his victims. And his new neighbours have more than enough dark secrets to make this game his best one yet…

Do you fear The Resident? Soon you’ll be dying to meet him.

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The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue

Published: July 23rd, 2020
Published: Picador
Genre: Historical Fiction, Medical Fiction, Dystopian Fiction

Room is one of my favourite books of all time and I’m a huge fan of historical and medical fiction, so I have high hopes for this novel.

SYNOPSIS:
In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city centre, where expectant mothers who have come down with an unfamiliar Flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders: Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney.

In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work.

In The Pull of the Stars, Emma Donoghue once again finds the light in the darkness in this classic story of hope and survival against all odds.

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Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar

Published: July 23rd, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Noir Ficiton

Ever since I first heard about this debut thriller last year I’ve been desperate to read it. I’m hoping to be on the blog tour for this one so keep an eye out for my review next month.

SYNOPSIS:

She’s got your job. She wants your life

When Katherine first meets her new intern Lily, she’s captivated. Young, beautiful and confident, Lily reminds Katherine of everything she once was – and it’s not long before she develops a dark fascination with her new colleague.

But is Lily as perfect as she seems, or does she have a sinister hidden agenda? As Katherine is drawn into an obsessive power struggle with the intern, a disturbing picture emerges of two women hiding dark secrets – and who are desperate enough to do anything to come out on top…

Breathlessly addictive and deeply unsettling, Precious You is a thriller like no other. Taut, terrifying and with shocking twists at every turn, it will keep you guessing until the very last page.

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The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman

Published: July 28th, 2020
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction

As soon as I read the synopsis of this novel I knew I had to read it. As with The Waiting Rooms and The Pull of the Stars it also feels like a particularly timely read right now.

SYNOPSIS:
Ellen Marie Wiseman, acclaimed author of What She Left Behind and The Life She Was Given, weaves the stories of two very different women into a page-turning novel as suspenseful as it is poignant, set amid one of history’s deadliest pandemics.

In the fall of 1918, thirteen-year-old German immigrant Pia Lange longs to be far from Philadelphia’s overcrowded streets and slums, and from the anti-German sentiment that compelled her father to enlist in the U.S. Army, hoping to prove his loyalty. But an even more urgent threat has arrived. Spanish influenza is spreading through the city. Soon, dead and dying are everywhere. With no food at home, Pia must venture out in search of supplies, leaving her infant twin brothers alone . . .

Since her baby died days ago, Bernice Groves has been lost in grief and bitterness. If doctors hadn’t been so busy tending to hordes of immigrants, perhaps they could have saved her son. When Bernice sees Pia leaving her tenement across the way, she is buoyed by a shocking, life-altering decision that leads her on a sinister mission: to transform the city’s orphans and immigrant children into what she feels are “true Americans.”

As Pia navigates the city’s somber neighborhoods, she cannot know that her brothers won’t be home when she returns. And it will be a long and arduous journey to learn what happened–even as Bernice plots to keep the truth hidden at any cost. Only with persistence, and the courage to face her own shame and fear, will Pia put the pieces together and find the strength to risk everything to see justice at last.

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The Butterfly Lampshade by Aimee Bender
Published July 30th, 2020
Publisher: Hutchinson
Genre: Literary Fiction

I’ll admit it was the cover that initially drew me to this book, but it was the synopsis that earned it’s place on this list. This one sounds like a powerful novel that will linger long after reading.

SYNOPSIS:
On the night her mother is taken to a mental hospital after a psychotic episode, eight year-old Francie is staying with her babysitter. Next to the couch on which she’s sleeping, there is a lamp that catches her eye, its shade adorned with butterflies. When she wakes, Francie sees a dead butterfly floating in a glass of water. She drinks it before the babysitter can see.

Twenty years later, Francie is compelled to make sense of that moment, and two other incidents – her discovery of a desiccated beetle from a school paper, and a bouquet of dried roses from some curtains. Her recall is exact: she is sure these things were real. But despite her certainty, she wrestles with the hold these memories have over her, and with what they say about her place in the world.

Told in lush, lilting prose, The Butterfly Lampshade is a heartfelt and heartbreaking examination of the sometimes overwhelming power of the material world, and of a broken love between mother and child.