These are the books I read in 2020

I've always told people I'm quite the reader, I love to read, before bed, on the train, in the afternoon you name it you'll find me with a book in hand my face buried deep in the pages but that would, in fact, be a lie, that was however until the dreaded year, the year we do not speak of came about, instead that is now a statement which can now be deemed true. 

An overwhelming desire felt by so many of us last year was the exact reason why I decided it was the right time to pick up reading again and that was the desire to escape. Whether it was watching a film, listening to music or even a podcast I, as can be said for many just wanted to escape. The news outlets, another announcement from Boris, the doom and gloom of it all, we all just wanted to quite simply switch off from the weight of the world. Luckily I had set myself a reading challenge from January to read 12 books in 12 months an easy (or so I thought) goal that in all honesty, I expected to start and just drop come mid-march but instead with the announcement of lockdown it gave me plenty a reason to go full steam ahead to complete 12 books by the time the year was out... alas I did not achieve said goal but I gave it a bloody good go. 

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

I started my goal off with The Great Gatsby a book I was keen to read after watching the film. The book is quite thin much to my surprise (and relief) when it arrived at just 200 pages. I thought it the perfect book to ease me in. Admittedly I watched the film beforehand, despite not being crazy about 'every' element in the film (the music choices were bizarre, to say the least) I did, however, fall in love with the story and the aesthetic of Gatsby's world. It put me in mind of Romeo and Juliet with the heartbreak, romance and tragedy of it all so not long after watching the film I decided to pick the book up and give it a go having heard that the book was in fact much better than the film.

Admittedly for some reason, I did struggle with this book, which either stemmed from the fact that I was quite rusty easing back into reading again which was highly likely but also the fact that I'm not used to this sort of book, particularly the language and the period in which it was set, so at points, I did find it hard to follow. However in terms of comparison over the film and movie I loved the books ending as a pose to the film, whether that is because I can't remember the film as well now I'm not sure but I remember thinking there were a lot of differences in how the story concluded. Overall I loved the story and the characters it follows, it's extravagant, luxurious and scandalous so for those alone, I'd recommend! 3/5

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Reverting back to reading a book before it becomes an adaptation Normal People was a book I was so delighted to have read prior to seeing the characters come to life. I remember after reading the book I went straight to Youtube and watched the trailer and was so pleasantly delighted to see the characters exactly as I imagined them. I've delved into a review of this book on a previous blog post titled 'Like everyone else I fell in love with Normal People' where I spoke about its journey from paper to screen so I've linked that rather than repeating what I said there in this post. 4/5

Queenie by Candice Carty - Williams 

I wanted to love Queenie so much, after seeing glowing review after glowing review I was so eager to get stuck in and boy did I get stuck in. I started the book grinning from ear to ear laughing or snorting my way through each funny text message an element I have to say I absolutely loved about the book. It started playful, fun and terribly witty. I knew upon starting the book that I'd be hooked on it for days but for some reason midway through the book my mind started to trail.  Queenie makes SO many infuriating choices along the way and I found her incredibly selfish and self-centred at points, I would have loved to see her ask about her friends more instead she does a fair bit of whining about herself which I obviously understand as the point of the main character but a lot of the time it feels as though she's just doing it for no reason. It also becomes predictable at parts, without spoiling it there are bits I read that made me scream how?! how did you not see that coming?! 

What I did love however was how easy this felt to read and how it raised important issues in the writing such as racism, abuse and mental illness something that at points becomes very deep and you find the book becoming more serious than a light-hearted read. At points, it reminded me of shows like Fleabag or Chewing Gum which I loved. I guess something I've always naively come to expect from stories is a happy ending but this book is more realistically a representation of someone's life. I was surprised to learn that this was the author's first book, which I think in that sense is very impressive! 3.5/5

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

I went into reading this book a little cautious having heard mixed reviews but coming from reading Normal People I shouldn't have been.

One of my favourite, favourite things about Sally Rooney's writing is that her characters are incredibly complex, they have their own struggles, they are at times very problematic which is an often a result of experiences they've had in their life which often results in a lot of self-loathing and self-pity for themselves. Even just coming off the back of the two books she's written you can already notice and understand the world Rooney creates. The characters often come across as quite dreamlike always observing from a view. There's so much more to them than what meets the surface. Sally manages to achieve this real human-like element to her stories making them real and for the most part relatable which gives off this feeling of peering into someone's real life. The relationship between Frances and Nick I found particularly interesting as well as the dynamic and tension between the 'friendship' group.

 In conclusion, the story to me didn't feel like it went anywhere or ended at a concluding point but what I appreciate is the snapshot Rooney creates, this slice of a story she invites you into. 4/5

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

 Following on from the incredible Daisy Jones and the Six I felt compelled to read more from Reid knowing that it was highly likely that having enjoyed that I would enjoy more from this particular author, I wasn’t wrong in fact Reid has fast become one of my favourite authors. Already I have another book of hers sitting on my shelf ready to go. First, though Evelyn Hugo is incredible, I'd heard raving reviews about this book prior to reading so I had high hopes from the outset something that thankfully delivered. I began reading this on a Saturday afternoon and found myself buried in the book till the early evening, then the following morning found myself right back in the same place ready for more and that is down to the writing in itself, not to mention the plot in which it follows, this story is one hell of a rollercoaster one that feels so real to read and again that is down to just how believable and real Reid makes her characters. This doesn’t just feel like a book it feels like a life story or an autobiography which I believe was the intention. 
There are so many elements, twists and turns to unravel in this story, so many parts that had me completely in awe of it all. I love the way each chapter discussed each husband and the way the story revolves around that, you find yourself going deeper into each relationship, invested in the ins and outs of it all, all whilst following this fiercely unapologetic women who are so compelling and demanding to read about so much so that it’s hard to believe she isn’t real. Like the way Reid creates the idea of this real band in Daisy jones this story is instead made up of references to films you are so desperate to see but unfortunately can’t because they sadly don’t exist, it also follows the life of a woman who doesn’t exist but yeah feels so alive in comparison. 
 The representation in this book is also exceptional, I won’t go into too much detail but knowing that this book will most likely be adapted into a film or television series the prospect of actors that could be used is very exciting! My favourite most favourite part of this book, however, is Chapter 28, that chapter alone is in-credible, it's SO clever and so satisfying to read. 5/5

Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman 

 At this point, you’ll probably notice a general theme if you haven’t allowed me to point it out for you. Many of the books I read last year either have been made into a series or a film or are yet to become one this wasn’t intentional on my part but I think it’s because I’ve always enjoyed that transition from book to screen which comes from being a very visual person. So reading this book wasn’t any different. I initially saw this series advertised on Iplayer and loved the idea and structure it followed but upon research found so many people saying to read the book first something that thinking about now I’m so glad I did give that the series I wouldn’t go rushing back to watch in any kind of hurry, but that’s something I’ll go into a little later. 

This book I loved, so much more so than I ever expected after getting it to a slightly unconvincing start I wasn’t sure if reading it was the right idea I say that because it does admittedly start off quite childish, it definitely has ‘teen’ elements to it and especially in the naivety in which Sephy talks but I decided to push on through. As the story goes on it begins to become this incredibly powerful and thought-provoking story. Much of the book I can still vividly recall even now months after reading because of the images I was able to create with the writer's words in my mind.

 Undoubtedly you’ll know if you’ve read this book that the ending particularly sticks with you, I haven’t read an ending quite like it. It left me heartbroken and in pieces, I found myself going back over the last few pages almost torturing myself reading it over and over again something I wouldn’t recommend but I would, however, compel you to read this book if you ever get the chance because it truly is incredible. I loved it so much that the series made me furious, it was badly executed rather than feeling like a grown-up gripping drama it felt like an after school CBBC programme much to my disappointment there was also so much changed in it that it made me want to stop watching - I did, however, stick it out until the end but I would recommend you to avoid the series at all costs and read the book instead I’m hoping that they’ll decide to make a film one day and follow the exact plot of the book but for now I’ll settle with a near-perfect book. 5/5

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

 Firstly I’m just going to go in all guns blazing with this one and say, this book is hands down my most favourite book I’ve ever read to date, yes really. I started this book in early March and finished it very shortly after racing through each page to the very end. It’s like nothing I’ve ever picked up and read before from the way it’s written to the characters, the story, the sex, drugs and rock and roll of it all, it had me hooked, clinging on every word, page after page, night and day. 
 Just to highlight the things that stood out to me the most the first being the writing for one which makes it so addicting to read, I felt as though I could picture the characters talking to me through a screen filmed as though it were a documentary creating this it really fun and interesting dynamic between the characters chopping and changing from the dialogue between them to performances from the band, or sessions in the studio something you can picture translating well to screen. As someone who loves music biopics and music documentaries and as a music fan, in general, this truly, for me felt like the perfect book. The characters were complex, multilayered, complicated whilst at the heart of it, vulnerable, each damaged somehow with different recollections of the same event’s something that makes it even more of an interesting read. 
The relationship between Daisy and Billy especially had me fully invested from the get-go, the tension between them both is intoxicating to read. Daisy herself is such an interesting character. Truly I hoped this book wouldn’t end so when it did I found myself googling like crazy to find out if, it was, in fact, a true story something that Reid does so well in making it feel so believable. It was then I came to learn about it being picked up by Reece Witherspoon and made into a tv series, something I’m SO unbelievably excited for especially as another fun and unique thing about the book is the original song lyrics written by the author herself. Sheets of lyrics that are begging to be made into a soundtrack that in itself I’m very excited about! 
Without a doubt, this is a book I’ll go back to in the coming years, but first I’d like to listen to the audiobook also after having heard such glowing reviews for it but truly I’d recommend this to anyone. 5/5

Call me by your name by AndrĂ© Aciman 

Like Cherry, I read this also during the summer months intentionally as it is set in Italy during the summer. I've wanted to read this for a while after having come around from the film feeling very disconnected. Admittedly I think that at the time of watching it I don't think I quite got it or understood it, for some reason I just didn't believe or feel their love story so I hoped that by reading the book I could connect to them both in some way or another. 

Firstly I have to start by saying that reading *that* peach scene in the book is considerably more traumatic than actually watching it on the screen though some would argue both are very uncomfortable to endure. The book itself is so deep on many levels and incredibly complex to read. What I enjoyed the most was the writing and how poetic it was in such a way that it felt like a motion, in the way that the text flows. Luckily for me after reading it I'm hoping to go back to the film with a better understanding of their relationship and of the love they feel for one another, maybe that was due to the film having some element that just felt missing? Instead, that was certainly an element that felt prominent in the book, Elios heartbreak and yearning for Oliver is present throughout but on the whole, however, I found his thoughts and his actions incredibly worrisome and quite honestly very creepy there are definitely some parts that were problematic and made me feel a tad uncomfortable. What stands out is that this isn't a love story not by a long shot but instead a story about love. 3.5/5

Cherry by Nico Walker 

I read Cherry under the heat of the sun towards the end of May and into June page-turning as I soaked up the sun, Misty close by my side, looking back on that alone I remember reading Cherry well. 

Now if you know me, or even if you don't a quick glance at my Twitter feed and/or my Instagram you will come to learn how very fond I am of Tom Holland, to put it very lightly. So Cherry came known to me through my love of him after learning of his casting in the upcoming film adaptation something I'm now very very eagerly awaiting. 
Naturally, I began by researching the book in which the film is based upon knowing full well that once the film came out I'd one hundred per cent be watching. I was so intrigued by both the plot and the real experiences on which some of it is based that I couldn't wait to get started. Interestingly enough the Author Nico Walker, now released at the end of 2019 spent time in prison for Bank Robbery an ordeal in which the unnamed narrator's experiences are based upon. Nico wrote the book on a typewriter in a jail cell, something that very quickly becomes apparent whilst you read, that is if like me you find a few mistakes here and there darted throughout, these mistakes were, in fact, intentional with Nico stating in the 'Acknowledgements' at the end of the book that he 'insisted on them being there' reading about the coming about of the book is as interesting as the story itself so if you grab a copy I'd certainly recommend reading Nico's own words at the end. 

Now for the book itself admittedly I didn't love it, I'll be honest, the reason being that after a while it just became very repetitive especially towards the end of the book when the narrator speaks about his experience using drugs I began to find myself just willing for the book to come to some sort of abrupt end or for there to be some kind of bit plot finish to add some depth or meaning to the book but instead it just kind of drags on towards the end. 
The book is also very sexist at points, as a woman they weren't particularly the nicest bits to read something I collectively found in the review section from other women on Goodreads. As for the parts which are set during his time in the army, again they tend to get quite tedious after a while as someone who hasn't been in the army like many who have read it I found it very difficult at times to follow with the use of lots of acronyms I found myself just skimming over those words pretending to know exactly what it was he was referring to whilst actually having no clue what he was really talking about. 
As for the language, it's vulgar, incredibly disgusting and uncalled for at times along with the sex scenes that are very graphically detailed. However, in saying that there were many things that kept me going, in particular, some of the humour is actually funny, there were little things that made me snigger here and there and as a whole, it was a change of genre I'm not usually used to reading so that made it all the more intriguing. As a story about PTSD and addiction, it's incredibly hard to read and learn about but it's hard to feel sorry for the narrator when he's kind of the worst (and he knows it) 

In conclusion, it's a very raw and detailed story but you've got to be thick-skinned with a strong stomach for what this story entails. 4/5

Women don't owe you pretty by Florence Given 

Admittedly I hold my hands up to buying this book from the Instagram hype around it, for one thing, I will say is it is such an aesthetical coffee table type book, the illustrations in it are excellent, it's sarcastic and very close to home as a woman but the thing I found most frustrating about this book is how obvious much of the advice is, I found myself almost rolling my eyes as I read parts of it not really understanding how there are people who don't already know this stuff or didn't already follow this way of life already. For example, the chapter 'Refuse to find comfort in other women's flaws' it reads many things I find absurd to believe that one person would actually think like 'tearing down successful women' or you say 'she's a slut'. I found myself questioning how or why that statement would even cross your mind? So the advice to me felt blatantly obvious, some parts are almost insulting.

 One thing I would say is that this book is a great introduction to younger girls, one you would give to your daughter or someone whos wanting to have more of a feminist approach to their life but as someone now in the mid *sob* twenties a lot of the advice in the book comes across as standard stuff you should already know. 2/5

Fleabag: The Scriptures by Phoebe Waller-Bridge 

As a huge fan of the series, I was eager for a copy of this and oh my what a joy it is. It is essentially the exact format and scripture from the television show but to read it is equally a pleasure. There is SO much I love about Fleabag and find myself returning to this when I'm in need of a little pick me up. It's so clever, witty and oh so incredibly relevant. My love Clare is just as equal as it is for fleabag, one of the many elements I love is the sisterhood between the two of them in this series. 
I couldn't honestly love this book any more if I tried. 5/5

What's your opinion?

@paige rhianne_