📚 My Top 20 Recommended Reads for 2020 📚
2020 thankfully is finally coming to a close, and as much as it has been a year we would all like to forget and move on from, there were some fantastic books published and I was lucky enough to read some truly amazing ones that I would love to share with you, hope that you will add to your TBR pile and maybe come back and tell me how much, if at all, you liked them.
Obviously I could have made this list a lot longer as it has been a great year where reading is concerned, but to honour the 2020 passing I kept it to just 20.
Some of these reads have been my Book Of The Month picks and I have included the reviews for each one in the Grey HERE tab to try and encourage you that little bit further, also if you click on the purchase tab it will take you to my affiliate link with amazon where you can purchase the book if you wish.
At the end of this post I will tell you what my Book Of The Year has been, and trust me, whittling that down to just one has been extremely hard, they all deserve it, but I've gone with the one that caused me the most emotional turmoil and had me utterly gripped from start to finish.
So here we go. . . .
Hamnet by Maggie o Farrell
'A beautiful read. A devastating one. Intricate, and breathtakingly imaginative'
TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.
On a summer's day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?
Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.
Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker's son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.
2. The Life We Almost Had by Amelia Henley
‘A love story with a definite difference. Get ready for the final chapter – you have been warned’
This is not a typical love story, but it’s our love story.
Anna wasn’t looking for love when Adam swept her off her feet but there was no denying their connection, and she believed they would be together forever.
Years later, cracks have appeared in their relationship. Anna is questioning whether their love can really be eternal when a cruel twist of fate delivers a crushing blow, and Anna and Adam are completely lost to one another. Now, Anna needs Adam more than ever, but the way back to him has life-changing consequences. Is a second chance at first love really worth the sacrifice? Anna needs to decide and time is running out…
3. Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins
'Full of hidden chambers, and some of them are haunted . . . part thriller, part love story, wholly beguiling. I was glued to every page'
When the eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford College Master vanishes in the middle of the night, police turn to the Scottish nanny, Dee, for answers.
As Dee looks back over her time in the Master's Lodging - an eerie and ancient house - a picture of a high achieving but dysfunctional family emerges: Nick, the fiercely intelligent and powerful father; his beautiful Danish wife Mariah, pregnant with their child; and the lost little girl, Felicity, almost mute, seeing ghosts, grieving her dead mother.
But is Dee telling the whole story? Is her growing friendship with the eccentric house historian, Linklater, any cause for concern? And most of all, why is Felicity silent?
4. The Binding by Bridget Collins
'Truly spellbinding … readers will sink gratefully into the pleasures of its pages'
Emmett Farmer is a binder’s apprentice. His job is to hand-craft beautiful books and, within each, to capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory.
If you have something you want to forget, or a secret to hide, he can bind it – and you will never have to remember the pain it caused.
In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, row upon row of books – and secrets – are meticulously stored and recorded.
Then one day Emmett makes an astonishing discovery: one of the volumes has his name on it.
5. Beyond The Moon by Catherine Taylor
'A poignant and stirring love story... Taylor's accomplished, genre-bending book succeeds as a historical novel and a beguiling, time-travel romance'
In 1916 1st Lieutenant Robert Lovett is a patient at Coldbrook Hall military hospital in Sussex, England. A gifted artist, he’s been wounded fighting in the Great War. Shell shocked and suffering from hysterical blindness he can no longer see his own face, let alone paint, and life seems increasingly hopeless.
A century later in 2017, medical student Louisa Casson has just lost her beloved grandmother – her only family. Heartbroken, she drowns her sorrows in alcohol on the South Downs cliffs – only to fall accidentally part-way down. Doctors fear she may have attempted suicide, and Louisa finds herself involuntarily admitted to Coldbrook Hall – now a psychiatric hospital, an unfriendly and chaotic place.
Then one day, while secretly exploring the old Victorian hospital’s ruined, abandoned wing, Louisa hears a voice calling for help, and stumbles across a dark, old-fashioned hospital room. Inside, lying on the floor, is a mysterious, sightless young man, who tells her he was hurt at the Battle of the Somme, a WW1 battle a century ago. And that his name is Lieutenant Robert Lovett…
6. A Court Of Thorns And Roses Series by Sarah J Maas
ACOTAR Review HERE
ACOMAF Review HERE
ACOWAR Review HERE
ACOFAS Review HERE
'This series totally blew me away! just when I thought the last book couldn't get any better, the next would totally blow me away'
A Court of Thorns and Roses:
Feyre is a huntress. And when she sees a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she kills the predator and takes its prey to feed herself and her family. But the wolf was not what it seemed, and Feyre cannot predict the high price she will have to pay for its death ...
A Court of Mist and Fury:
Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court - but at a steep cost. Though she now possesses the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, the mesmerising High Lord of the feared Night Court.
A Court of Wings and Ruin:
Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring her land to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit - and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.
A Court of Frost and Starlight:
In this companion tale to the bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series, Feyre, Rhys and their friends are working to rebuild the Night Court and the vastly changed world beyond after the events of A Court of Wings and Ruin.But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it a hard-earned reprieve. Yet even the festive atmosphere can't keep the shadows of the past from looming.
7. The First Time I Saw You by Emma Cooper
'A heartwarming, charming novel which had me falling in love and desperate to be part of their happy ending'
Six-foot-two Irish man who answers to the name Samuel McLaughlin.
Has weak shins and enjoys show tunes.
If found, please return to Sophie Williams.
Sophie Williams has the perfect career and it's all she needs to shut herself off from the rest of the world, and more importantly, the secrets of her past.
Samuel McLaughlin is an open book. He lives for the present and life for him is his big Irish family and his friends.
Against all expectation, Samuel breaks down the walls of Sophie's ordered world and they spend the perfect week together, but when Sophie discovers the terrible truth, she is forced to leave.
But as Samuel begins searching for Sophie, a life-changing event alters how he sees life forever.
And with each passing week, Sophie seems further and further from his reach.
8. A more Perfect Union by Tammye Huf
'This is a love story of epic proportions – a forbidden relationship that has been forged in secrecy, and faces betrayal and jeopardy at every turn.'
Based on real events brilliantly reimagined, this is an epic story of love and courage, desperation and determination, and three people who are inescapably entwined in each other's lives.
Henry O'Toole sails to America to escape poverty and famine in Ireland, only to find anti-Irish prejudice awaiting him. Determined never to starve again, he changes his surname to Taylor and heads south to Virginia, where he can pick up work as a travelling blacksmith on the prosperous plantations.
Maple is a slave on Jubilee Plantation. Given to her half-sister as a wedding present by their father, she longs to return to her daughter and husband. When sassy house slave Sarah arrives, she sees her chance at last to be reunited with her own family.
Sarah has her own troubles. She has to learn to navigate the hierarchy of her fellow slaves as well as the power system of her new white masters, and now the mysterious blacksmith is promising her the world, and her freedom too.
9. Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley
'A perfectly pitched tale of suspense and the dark side of folklore . . . perfect, page-turning reading for a dark night'
The worst thing possible has happened. Richard and Juliette Willoughby's son, Ewan, has died suddenly at the age of five. Starve Acre, their house by the moors, was to be full of life, but is now a haunted place.
Juliette, convinced Ewan still lives there in some form, seeks the help of the Beacons, a seemingly benevolent group of occultists. Richard, to try and keep the boy out of his mind, has turned his attention to the field opposite the house, where he patiently digs the barren dirt in search of a legendary oak tree.
10. Madam by Phoebe Wynne
'Chilling, eerie and very clever. I devoured it'
For 150 years, Caldonbrae Hall has loomed high above the Scottish cliffs as a beacon of excellence in the ancestral castle of Lord William Hope. A boarding school for girls, it promises that its pupils will emerge 'resilient and ready to serve society'.
Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie, a 26-year-old Classics teacher and new head of department. Rose is overwhelmed by the institution: its arcane traditions, unrivalled prestige, and terrifyingly cool, vindictive students.
Her classroom becomes her haven, where the stories of fearless women from ancient Greek and Roman history ignite the curiosity of the girls she teaches and, unknowingly, the suspicions of the powers that be.
But as Rose uncovers the darkness that beats at the very heart of Caldonbrae, the lines between myth and reality grow ever more blurred. It will be up to Rose - and the fierce young women she has come to love - to find a way to escape the fate the school has in store for them, before it is too late.
11. The Foundling by Stacey Halls
'A compelling tale of love and hope from the vivid streets of Georgian London'
Two women, bound by a child, and a secret that will change everything . . .
Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London's Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst, that Clara has died in care, Bess is astonished to be told she has already claimed her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl - and why.
Less than a mile from Bess's lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend - an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital - persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.
12. Q by Christina Dalcher
'Powerful, devastating & shockingly brilliant. It’s hard to tell if this book is truly a work of fiction or a horrific glance at reality'
Elena Fairchild is a teacher at one of the state’s new elite schools. Her daughters are exactly like her: beautiful, ambitious, and perfect. A good thing, since the recent mandate that’s swept the country is all about perfection.
Now everyone must undergo routine tests for their quotient, Q, and any children who don’t measure up are placed into new government schools. Instead, teachers can focus on the gifted. Elena tells herself it’s not about eugenics, not really, but when one of her daughters scores lower than expected and is taken away, she intentionally fails her own test to go with her. But what Elena discovers is far more terrifying than she ever imagined…
13. Ariadne by Jennifer Saint
'Ariadne gives a voice to the forgotten women of one of the most famous Greek myths, and speaks to their strength in the face of angry, petulant Gods. Beautifully written and completely immersive, this is an exceptional debut novel'
As Princesses of Crete and daughters of the fearsome King Minos, Ariadne and her sister Phaedra grow up hearing the hoofbeats and bellows of the Minotaur echo from the Labyrinth beneath the palace. The Minotaur - Minos's greatest shame and Ariadne's brother - demands blood every year.
When Theseus, Prince of Athens, arrives in Crete as a sacrifice to the beast, Ariadne falls in love with him. But helping Theseus kill the monster means betraying her family and country, and Ariadne knows only too well that in a world ruled by mercurial gods - drawing their attention can cost you everything.
In a world where women are nothing more than the pawns of powerful men, will Ariadne's decision to betray Crete for Theseus ensure her happy ending? Or will she find herself sacrificed for her lover's ambition?
14. The Year Of The Witching by Alexis Henderson
'A magnificent, raw slice of folk horror, dark with threat and clenched with suspense . . .'
Born on the fringes of Bethel, Immanuelle does her best to obey the Church and follow Holy Protocol. For it was in Bethel that the first Prophet pursued and killed four powerful witches, and so cleansed the land.
And then a chance encounter lures her into the Darkwood that surrounds Bethel.
It is a forbidden place, haunted by the spirits of the witches who bestow an extraordinary gift on Immanuelle. The diary of her dead mother . . .
Fascinated by and fearful of the secrets the diary reveals, Immanuelle begins to understand why her mother once consorted with witches. And as the truth about the Prophets, the Church and their history is revealed, so Immanuelle understands what must be done. For the real threat to Bethel is its own darkness.
Bethel must change. And that change will begin with her . . .
15. The Waiting Rooms by Eve Smith
'Chillingly close to reality, this gripping thriller brims with authenticity a captivating, accomplished and timely debut from an author to watch'
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.
16. Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton
'An incredible, unbelievably powerful book... I forgot how to breathe as it explored what it means to be human'
In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege.
Pupils and teachers barricade themselves into classrooms, the library, the theatre. The headmaster lies wounded in the library, unable to help his trapped students and staff. Outside, a police psychiatrist must identify the gunmen, while parents gather desperate for news.
In three intense hours, all must find the courage to stand up to evil and save the people they love.
17. Precious You by Helen Monks Takhur
'A deliciously dark, addictive, and twisted page-turner'
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…
18. Tsarina by Ellen Alpsten
'This is the ultimate Cinderella story of an illiterate peasant girl who becomes the empress of Russia. It makes Game of Thrones look like a nursery rhyme'
Meet TSARINA, the most powerful woman history ever forgot.
Spring 1699: Illegitimate, destitute and strikingly beautiful, Marta has survived the brutal Russian winter in her remote Baltic village. Sold by her family into household labour at the age of fifteen, Marta survives by committing a crime that will force her to go on the run.
A world away, Russia's young ruler, Tsar Peter I, passionate and iron-willed, has a vision for transforming the traditionalist Tsardom of Russia into a modern, Western empire. Countless lives will be lost in the process.
Falling prey to the Great Northern War, Marta cheats death at every turn, finding work as a washerwoman at a battle camp. One night at a celebration, she encounters Peter the Great. Relying on her wits and her formidable courage, and fuelled by ambition, desire and the sheer will to live, Marta will become Catherine I of Russia. But her rise to the top is ridden with peril; how long will she survive the machinations of Peter's court, and more importantly, Peter himself?
19. The Shape Of Darkness by Laura Purcell