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
Emma's Anticipated Treasures Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up – November 2020

Well that was a fast month!

The last month of 2020 is almost upon us and my mind is full of what to include in my favourite books of the year. But before that, there’s this month’s reading wrap up and a month of reading more books to do.

November has been a slower month for me as this time of year always brings with it the worsening of my chronic health conditions. I didn’t manage to read all the ones I’d started either and am in the middle of 3 others (one paperback, one kindle and one audio).

So, what did I manage to do? I read thirteen books, took part in thirteen blog tours, two readalongs and one watchalong. One of those readalongs was a bit different as we made cocktails using the new Peaky Blinders Cocktail Book. It was also fun taking part in the Shirley watchalong. It’s made me want to finally read Shirley Jackson’s books and more about her fascinating life.

Here is what I read in November:

  1. The Night Away ⭐⭐⭐. 5
  2. The One Before ⭐⭐⭐. 5
  3. The Diabolical Bones ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  4. One By One ⭐⭐⭐. 5
  5. The Package ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. The Company Daughters ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  7. Fallen Angels ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. How To Belong ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. Body Language ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  11. Her Sister’s Child ⭐⭐⭐. 5
  12. Dead Girl Walking ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  13. Bright Lies ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I read some great books this month. The Diabolical Bones and The Package were standout reads that were contenders for BOTM for a while. But when I read The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside there was no question that this would be my BOTM. EVERYONE needs to read this book! It is one of my favourites this year for sure. You can read the review for it, and the other books I’ve read this month, by clicking the link in their title in the list above.

In December I’m looking forward to a more relaxed month. I’ve only taken on three blog tours and will be doing more mood reading. I can’t wait!

Thank you to the tagged publishers who sent gifted copies.

Did we read any of the same books this month? What was your favourite book in November? Let me know in the comments.

Categories
Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside by Jessica Ryn

Published: November 26th, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Uplit, Contemporary Romance, Coming-of-Age Fiction

Today is my stop on the tour for this wonderful debut. Thank you to HQ for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

She’s not lost. She’s just waiting to be found…

Dawn Elisabeth Brightside has been running from her past for twenty-two years and two months, precisely.

So when she is offered a bed in St Jude’s Hostel for the Homeless, it means so much more than just a roof over her head.

But with St Jude’s threatened with closure, Dawn worries that everything is about to crumble around her all over again.

Perhaps, with a little help from her new friends, she can find a way to save this light in the darkness?

And maybe, just maybe, Dawn will finally have a place to call home….

The utterly charming feel-good debut novel of 2020 to curl up with.

MY REVIEW:

“And if being at St Jude’s has taught me anything, it’s that you need to find your tribe. The rest of the journey’s not designed to be a solo one. Group tickets always offer the best value.”

The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside is a truly special book. The definition of ‘uplit’, it is one of those books that feels like a warm hug or a hot chocolate on a cold day. It will make you laugh and cry. It will steal your heart and make a permanent home in your soul.

I adored the colourful cast of compelling and very real characters. I liked that the author showed their humanity and personality rather than making them a cliché. She makes their experiences leap from the page, transports you into their world and makes you live every moment alongside them.

Dawn is quite the character. She is damaged, flawed and unreliable but also hopeful, joyous and endearing. Despite being down on her luck and going through some very traumatic things, she sees the silver lining – the ‘bright side’ you might say – and encourages others to do the same. She cares deeply about others and becomes a real light in the lives of those around her. She is a character I won’t forget and I challenge anyone not to fall in love with her too.

This was a very nostalgic book for me as my father was a manager for the YMCA and we lived on-site for three years when I was twelve to fifteen. The experience made a huge impact and is a big part of who I am today. The residents became like family and we are still in touch with a number of them even now. All the memories of that time came flooding back while reading and it was clear to me that the author knew her stuff. This felt authentic. So I wasn’t surprised to learn she’d worked with the homeless and had even lived on-site too.

But while this is a very uplifting book, it also addresses serious topics such as mental health, addiction and homelessness. She examines these things on a deeper level, commenting on the perception and judgement of the homeless or with mental health or addiction issues, the underfunding of homeless hostels and the degradation of applying for sickness benefits, something I personally related to as someone unable to work because of chronic illness. But she has a talent for doing all of this without bringing the mood down, balancing gritty realism with a humour and optimism that is reminiscent of Dawn.

Addictive, heartbreaking, hopeful, evocative, entertaining, warm and emotionally resonant, this is a remarkable debut. This book has arrived at the perfect time; Dawn’s kindness and positivity is something we all need more of right now. READ THIS BOOK!

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Jessica Ryn is a former midwife and homeless resettlement worker. She has recently completed her MA in Creative Writing at CCCU, and her stories have been shortlisted for the Kimberly Chambers’ Kickstarter Award, Wordsmag and the Val Wood Prize for Creative Writing. When she’s not scribbling away, Jessica can be found meandering through the woods, reading stories that pull on the feel-strings and eating yoghurt-covered skittles. Jessica lives in Dover with her husband, two children and their high-spirited springer spaniel. The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside is her debut novel.

Website |Instagram |Twitter |Facebook

BUY THE BOOK:

Amazon |Waterstones |Hive |Google Books |Apple Books |Kobo

Categories
Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Emma’s Anticipated Treasures – November 2020

It’s time for another month of anticipated books. I can’t believe we’re up to November and I’ve been doing this for almost a year!

November has some of my most anticipated books of the year: The Swallowed Man, The Diabolical Bones and The Betrayals. It is set to be another great month full of exciting releases and increasing my never-ending TBR.

The Midnight Bargain by C. L. Polk

Published: November 1st, 2020
Publisher: Erwehon
Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy, Romance Fantasy

SYNOPSIS:
Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries–even for love–she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I’ve become a big fan of fantasy this year and this sounds like the perfect book in that genre to get lost in.
Pre-order here.

Shadow Sands by Robert Bryndza

Published: November 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Police Procedural, Crime Series

SYNOPSIS:
When Kate Marshall finds the bloated body of a young man floating in the Shadow Sands reservoir, the authorities label it a tragic accident.

But the details don’t add up: why was he there, in the middle of the night? If he was such a strong swimmer, how did he drown? As Kate and her assistant Tristan Harper follow the evidence, they make a far darker discovery . . .

This is only the latest victim in a series of bloody murders dating back decades. A mythic serial killer is said to hide in the rolling fog, abducting his victims like a phantom. And when another woman is taken, Kate and Tristan have a matter of days to save her from meeting the same fate.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I loved the first book in this new series when I read it earlier this year so I’m excited for the next installment.
Pre-order here.

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

Published: November 3rd, 2020
Publisher: Titan Books
Genre: Suspense, Horror, Occult Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Carrot has moved into the Wonder Museum –  an eclectic collection of taxidermy, shrunken heads, and Mystery Junk owned by her Uncle Earl. For Carrot, it’s not creepy at all: she grew up with it. What’s creepy is the corridor behind one of the museum walls. There’s just no space for a corridor there – or the concrete bunker, or the strange islands beyond the bunker’s doors, or the unseen things  in the willow trees.

Carrot has stumbled into a horrifying world, and They are watching her. Strewn among the islands are the remains of Their meals – and Their experiments. And even if she manages to make it home, she can’t stop calling Them after her…

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I love creepy books and this one sounds right up my street.
Pre-order here.

The Swallowed Man by Edward Carey

Published: November 5th, 2020
Publisher: Gallic Books
Genre: Fairy Tale, Dark Comedy, Fantasy Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
I am writing this account, in another man’s book, by candlelight, inside the belly of a fish. I have been eaten. I have been eaten, yet I am living still.

From the acclaimed author of Little comes this beautiful and haunting imagining of the years Geppetto spends within the belly of a sea beast.

Drawing upon the Pinocchio story while creating something entirely his own, Carey tells an unforgettable tale of fatherly love and loss, pride and regret, and of the sustaining power of art and imagination.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
When I read Little last year I instantly became a fan of this author. This book is written in a similar vein and I can’t wait to read it.
Pre-order here.

The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis

Published: November 5th, 2020
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Biographical Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
It’s Christmas 1845 and Haworth is in the grip of a freezing winter.

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë are rather losing interest in detecting until they hear of a shocking discovery: the bones of a child have been found interred within the walls of a local house, Top Withens Hall, home to the scandalous and brutish Bradshaw family.

When the sisters set off to find out more, they are confronted with an increasingly complex and sinister case, which leads them into the dark world of orphanages, and onto the trail of other lost, and likely murdered children. After another local boy goes missing, Charlotte, Emily and Anne vow to find him before it’s too late.

But in order to do so, they must face their most despicable and wicked adversary yet – one that would not hesitate to cause them the gravest of harm. . .

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
I’m a huge fan of this author and historical fiction and mysteries are my two favourite genres. So when she released The Vanished Bride last year I was so excited, and thrilled to find it was everything I’d hoped for and more. Ever since, I’ve been impatiently waiting for the next book in the series. I’m taking part in the blog tour for this one and my review will be posted on November 11th.
Pre-order here.

Loved and Wanted by Christa Pavarani

Published: November 10th, 2020
Publisher: Manila Press
Genre: Biography, Autobiography

SYNOPSIS:
A harrowing account of one woman’s reckoning with life, death and choice in Trump’s America. For readers of Educated and Hillbilly Elegy.

In 2017, Christa Parravani had recently moved her family from California to West Virginia. Surviving on a teacher’s salary, she was already raising two young children with her husband, screenwriter Anthony Swofford.

Another pregnancy, a year after giving birth to her second child, came as a shock. Christa had a history of ectopic pregnancies and was worried that she wouldn’t be able to find adequate medical care. She immediately requested a termination – but her doctor refused to help. The only doctor who would perform an abortion made it clear that this would be illicit, not condoned by her colleagues or their community.

In exploring her own choice, or rather in discovering her lack of it, Christa reveals the desperate state of female healthcare in contemporary America.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
This is a timely book that sounds like it needs to be read. The war against a woman’s right to choose is one we should all be fighting for.
Pre-order here.

The Betrayals by Bridget Collins

Published: November 12th, 2020
Publisher: The Borough Press
Genre: Psychological Fiction, Domestic Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
If everything in your life was based on a lie
Would you risk it all to tell the truth?

At Montverre, an exclusive academy tucked away in the mountains, the best and brightest are trained for excellence in the grand jeu: an arcane and mysterious contest. Léo Martin was once a student there, but lost his passion for the grand jeu following a violent tragedy. Now he returns in disgrace, exiled to his old place of learning with his political career in tatters.
 
Montverre has changed since he studied there, even allowing a woman, Claire Dryden, to serve in the grand jeu’s highest office of Magister Ludi. When Léo first sees Claire he senses an odd connection with her, though he’s sure they have never met before.
 
Both Léo and Claire have built their lives on lies.  And as the legendary Midsummer Game, the climax of the year, draws closer, secrets are whispering in the walls…

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
Why? Just look at the cover! All jokes aside, I loved Bridget Collins’ debut novel and am really excited to read what she’s written next.
Pre-order here.

The Thief on the Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas

Published: November 12th, 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Fairy Tale, Mystery

SYNOPSIS:
A dazzling mixture of crime, romance, magic and myth from the author of the bestselling The Psychology of Time Travel.

The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls for over 200 years. But their dolls aren’t coveted for the craftsmanship alone. Each one has a specific emotion laid on it by its creator. A magic that can make you feel bucolic bliss or consuming paranoia at a single touch. Though founded by sisters, now only men may know the secrets of the workshop.

Persephone Kendrick longs to break tradition and learn her ancestors’ craft, and when a handsome stranger arrives claiming doll-making talent and blood ties to the family, she sees a chance to grasp all she desires.

But then, one night, the firm’s most valuable doll is stolen. Only someone with knowledge of magic could have taken her. Only a Kendrick could have committed this crime…

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
Not only does the synopsis sound like this is a perfect book for me, but I loved this author’s last book and am interested to read more of her work.
Pre-order here.

One by One by Ruth Ware

Published: November 12th, 2020
Publisher: Harvill Secker
Genre: Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller

SYNOPSIS:
Snow is falling in the exclusive alpine ski resort of Saint Antoine, as the shareholders and directors of Snoop, the hottest new music app, gather for a make or break corporate retreat to decide the future of the company. At stake is a billion-dollar dot com buyout that could make them all millionaires, or leave some of them out in the cold.

The clock is ticking on the offer, and with the group irrevocably split, tensions are running high. When an avalanche cuts the chalet off from help, and one board member goes missing in the snow, the group is forced to ask – would someone resort to murder, to get what they want?

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
Ruth Ware is an author that has been on my tbr for a long time and her latest release sounds like an ideal winter thriller.
Pre-order here.

Little Threats by Emily Schultz

Published: November 12th, 2020
Publisher: Bantam Press
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
In the summer of 1993, twin sisters Kennedy and Carter Wynn are embracing the grunge era and testing every limit in their privileged Richmond suburb. But Kennedy’s teenage rebellion goes too far when, after a night of partying in the woods, her best friend, Haley, is murdered, and suspicion quickly falls upon Kennedy. She can’t remember anything about the night in question, and this, along with the damning testimony from a college boy who both Kennedy and Haley loved, is enough to force Kennedy to enter a guilty plea.

In 2008, Kennedy is released into a world that has moved on without her. Carter has grown distant as she questions Kennedy’s innocence, and begins a relationship with someone who could drive the sisters apart forever. The twins’ father, Gerry, is eager to protect the family’s secrets and fragile bonds. But Kennedy’s return brings the tragedy back to the surface, along with a whole new wave of media. When a crime show host comes to town asking questions, believing the murder wasn’t as simple as it seemed, murky memories of Haley’s death come to light. As new suspects emerge and the suburban woods finally give up their secrets, two families may be destroyed again.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
As soon as I read the description I added this to my most anticipated list. This sounds like exactly the kind of twisted thriller I love.
Pre-order here.

Fortune Favours the Dead by Stephen Spootswood

Published: November 12th, 2020
Publisher: Wildfire
Genre: Mystery, Crime Fiction, Historical Mystery

SYNOPSIS:
The first in the brilliant new Pentecost and Parker series, FORTUNE FAVOURS THE DEAD is a hugely entertaining murder mystery set in 1940s New York City.

New York, 1946. Lillian Pentecost is the most successful private detective in the city, but her health is failing. She hires an assistant to help with the investigative legwork. Willowjean Parker is a circus runaway. Quick-witted and street-smart, she’s a jack-of-all-trades with a unique skill-set. She can pick locks blindfolded, wrestle men twice her size, and throw knives with deadly precision – all of which come in handy working for Ms P.

When wealthy young widow Abigail Collins is murdered and the police are making no progress, Pentecost and Parker are hired by the family to track down the culprit. On Halloween night, there was a costume party at the Collins’ mansion, where a fortune teller performed a séance which greatly disturbed Abigail. Several hours later her body was discovered bludgeoned to death in her late husband’s office. Problem is, the door to the office was locked from the inside. There was no-one else in the room, and the murder weapon was beside the victim; the fortune teller’s crystal ball.

It looks like an impossible crime, but Pentecost and Parker know there is no such thing…

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
Not only does the cover draw me in, but a book with a mix of history and mystery is guaranteed to get my attention.
Pre-order here.

The Package by Sebastian Fitzek

Published: November 12th, 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Genre: Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Psychological Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
All you’ve done is taken in a parcel for a neighbour. You have no idea what you’ve let into your home.

Emma’s the one that got away.

The only survivor of a killer known in the tabloids as ‘the barber’ – because of the trophies he takes from his victims.

Or she thinks she was.

The police aren’t convinced. Nor is her husband. She never even saw her tormentor properly, but now she recognises him in every man.

Questioning her sanity, she gives up her job as a doctor in the local hospital and retreats from the world. It is better to stay at home. Quiet. Anonymous. Safe. He won’t find her here.

And all she did was take a parcel for a neighbour.

She has no idea what she’s let into her home.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
Any thriller endorsed by Harlan Coben is one I want to read. I’m on the blog tour for this book and my review will be posted on November 15th.
Pre-order here.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong

Published: November 17th, 2020
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Psychological Fiction, Coming-of-Age Story, Gay Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang-a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love . . . and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns-and grudges-aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
The gorgeous cover. The setting. A retelling of Romeo and Juliet. This one sounds like a winner to me.
Pre-order here.

The Extraordinary Hope of Dawn Brightside by Jessica Ryn

Published: November 26th, 2020
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Coming-of-Age Story, Domestic Fiction, Nautical Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Dawn Elisabeth Brightside has been running from her past for twenty-two years and two months, precisely.

So when she is offered a bed in St Jude’s Hostel for the Homeless, it means so much more than just a roof over her head.

But with St Jude’s threatened with closure, Dawn worries that everything is about to crumble around her all over again.

Perhaps, with a little help from her new friends, she can find a way to save this light in the darkness?

And maybe, just maybe, Dawn will finally have a place to call home….

WHY I’M ANTICIPATING THIS BOOK:
This sounds like a fun, immersive and uplifting read. I’m taking part in the blog tour and will post my review on November 27th.
Pre-order here.