I’ve always enjoyed reading, and I prefer fiction for the way it makes me feel rather than the information conveyed. I enjoy wandering into a story, only to get back to real life a few hours later. I studied philology so I can be quite critical of literature, but I usually prefer no to. One of my New Year resolutions in 2020 was to read more, and luckily, I managed. I’ve read a total of 26 books actually, as some of them were parts of series, and one was non-fiction. I’ve read most of them as e-books, and some I’ve listened to as audiobooks. I have a www.scribd.com subscription, which gives me access to a large library and a www.goodreads.com account that helps me keep track of my reading.
Here are the 19 books* I’d like to talk about and my ratings** and rantings.
*I do not own the pictures (or the books) in this article. All of them are linked back to http://www.goodreads.com
**Be advised that the ratings below are highly subjective.
- Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West (3/5)
I started the year with a fairytale-inspired novel. A fairly good young adult fantasy, in which several classic fairytales mix, the main seeming to be Sleeping Beauty. It’s a world of magic, where witches and wizards protect different kingdoms and try to keep them from going to war with each other.
- Shantaram by Gregory David Robert(5/5)
Then, I fell in love with Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, an adventure novel about an escaped Australian prisoner in India. It was a long read (around 1000 pages) but so worth it. Lin arrives in Bombay, makes an incredibly good friend from day one, and discovers India and its people. Though his actions are questionable, you cannot help but follow Lin in his adventures, romance, and friendship, as he moves from slums to five-star hotels to prison cells and back, trying to find his place in life.
- My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan (3/5)
After recovering (yes, I mean it) from Shantaram, I listened to My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan. A romance novel in which an American girl, Ella, goes to Oxford to study Victorian poetry and falls in love with her professor, an intriguing Brit with a secret. Not my favourite, but it was catchy, and I couldn’t help dreaming of Oxford and the professor myself, as I listened to the audiobook.
- Harry Potter (5/5)
Then the lockdown came and as I started working from home and spending way too much time indoors, I was feeling a bit down, and what better pick-me-up than the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I listened to the audiobooks for the first time (after reading them countless times before) interpreted by Stephen Fry. I wasn’t sure what to expect, whether I would like it as much if someone else read them to me, but they were perfect, as usual. Stephen Fry does an amazing job, and the audiobooks were a great companion to me at the start of the lockdown.
- The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan (2/5)
Another romance novel, a light read about a librarian who moves to Scotland, and opens a mobile bookshop, and falls in love with a local man. I loved the idea of a mobile bookshop, and it seemed so quaint and magical. I wished I could visit it.
- Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch – Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman. (5/5)
This. Book. Is. Genius. The way it was written just stands to show how brilliant the writers are. Filled with humour and unexpected twists, it gives a unique view of how our decisions impact our lives – or do they? An angel and a demon become partners in raising the Antichrist. Will they manage to stop the end of the world?
7-8. The Book of Dust (vol 1 & 2) – La Belle Sauvage & The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman. (5/5)
A fantasy and adventure series with some religion and ethics here and there, The Book of Dust is linked to Pullman’s other famous story – His Dark Materials. While La Belle Sauvage happens when Lyra was just a baby and has new characters take the role of protagonists, The Secret Commonwealth takes place when Lyra is a student, a young woman in search of the meaning of life. This series is much darker than His Dark Materials and so far, I would say maybe even slightly better. But I will decide on this as soon as I read the last volume, which is yet to be published. Suffice it to say, so far the story has been catchy enough for me and it has surprised me with some pretty dark twists as well as incredibly good scene descriptions, such as (SPOILER ALERT!) the murder of the patriarch.
9. The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway (4/5)
This was a “classic” choice of mine as I realised there’s a huge gap in my “classics” reading, and since it was a short novel, I thought I’d give it a try. I was not disappointed. It was unusually gripping and sad, and I’ve never been so mad at sharks before.
10. Anne of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery (4/5)
This is the last book of the Anne of Green Gables series, which I started about 3 years ago, and which became one of my favourites of all time. Although none as “good” as the first book, all six volumes have that enchanting and endearing atmosphere to them, and I cannot help but adore them. Though considered to be for children, anyone with an ounce of childhood and love for life in them would be delighted by Anne’s stories.
11. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. (3/5)
I decided to read this right after I saw the trailer of the upcoming movie. I’ve read some of Agatha Christie’s novels, so I knew I would enjoy the writing. However, either I’m older and more perceptive now, or the plot was indeed obvious as there was no secret for me as to who the murderer was.
12. Nightbird by Alice Hoffman (2/5)
This one was a slight disappointment. And I say slight, mostly because I didn’t read the description before starting the book, so I didn’t know it was more for children and therefore very predictable. It wasn’t a bad read, but not good either…somewhat in the way one of those Hallmark movies is – not great, but works for an “I have nothing to watch” night.
13. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz. (4/5)
This is a book I read for its title. I had no idea what to expect, and I was surely surprised. I would say it falls somewhere in between drama/romance/young adult fiction. It was a good read for me, and I think, definitely a good choice for a teenager. It tells the story of two boys who become friends and struggle to find themselves – a coming of age story if you wish.
14. Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire. (2/5)
I read the description of this book, and I was immediately intrigued: children slip between unseen cracks of the world, to other worlds, magical places, where they feel more at home than ever. As they return to the real world, they are extremely unhappy, and many of them are taken to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, where they try to become more at ease with their new life. Although the idea of it is still enthralling, I must say I remember little of the book. However, it appears to be the first of a series, and I might get a crack at the next ones this year, just to form a better opinion on it.
15. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (5/5)
By far one of the best books I read last year. A science-fiction drama, where scientists experiment with increasing a person’s IQ. The experiment works, and Charlie, who began with a very low IQ, becomes what seems to be the smartest person in the world. We are also shown the development of a lab rat – the first successful experiment, and we follow Charlie’s train of thought that changes remarkably throughout the book. The style and format of the writing is also something I appreciated very much.
16. Galatea by Madeline Miller (5/5)
A short story following a sculpture brought to life and her struggles with her husband and creator. For only 30 pages, it’s a masterpiece. Very captivating and vivid. I am actually curious to read more by this author.
17. Let It Snow (2/5)
A collection of 3 stories by John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle was an easy read before Christmas, which I thought to be only fitted. However, maybe too much of an easy read. Sure, it was pleasant, but by the time I’ve reached the third story, the characters were less and less interesting, and I wasn’t as keen on finding out what would happen next. Each story follows a teenager over a night or a couple of days around Christmas. At the end (or way sooner than that), we realize the lives of these teenagers are somehow linked, and they all get to meet in a Starbucks.
18. The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith. (4/5)
A fantasy novel that intrigued me with its name and description. One of the wings of Hell’s library is the Unwritten wing where all unwritten books are kept. Sometimes, characters escape, and they are being dragged back into their book by librarian Claire and her assistant. However, one character goes too far, an angel finds a piece of the Devil’s Book, and all Hell, Heaven, and Earth break loose as the story unfolds. Each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view, and although there were times when I thought things were a bit too stretched, the idea was still too good to let the book go.
19. Have You Seen Luis Velez? by Catherine Ryan Hyde (5/5)
The last book I read in 2020, and it was worth it. Although slightly lengthy, I enjoyed every bit of it as I was delighted and frustrated and happy and angry at it with every page. It follows the story of Raymond, a 17-year-old who befriends his 90-year-old blind neighbour. The old lady used to have help from a guy called Luis Velez, who seems to have disappeared without a trace, so Raymond decides to help her instead, while also secretly looking for the mysterious Luis Velez.
And now, I’m looking forward to a new year of reading, hopefully as bountiful as the last.
What books do you recommend? Did any of these catch your eye?