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Here are the best books I’ve read so far in 2020. Historical fiction, memoirs and romance novels included.
Although I love escaping to different cities, I have also always loved escaping through books. In case you don’t follow me on Instagram, I created a bookstagram account in May to allow me to share my love for books with fellow book lovers. I already love having a different creative outlet and the bookstagram community has been very welcoming.
Anyway, I thought it would be appropriate to do a round-up of the best books I’ve read in the first six months of 2020. Like many others, I’ve definitely read more since this pandemic began – my total currently stands at 33. Here are the five-star books I recommend adding to your to-be-read pile. There are also a lot of romance reads mentioned #sorrynotsorry.
In case you’re looking for further inspiration, here are my favourite contemporary romance novels and the best Australian books.
The best books of 2020 so far
The Flatshare is now one of my favourite romance novels. We hear from both Tiffy and Leon – two strangers who share a bed in his London flat. With Leon working night shifts, the pair don’t officially meet for months. However, they become friends through a series of handwritten notes they leave around the flat for each other. I love when romance novels have depth and complex characters and I’m pleased to say The Flatshare fits the bill. While Leon deals with family issues, Tiffy deals with her manipulative ex-boyfriend. Together with a series of interesting supporting characters, I highly recommend reading The Flatshare.
2. The Bride Test
I loved Helen Hoang’s first novel, The Kiss Quotient. Hence I was excited to get my hands on The Bride Test. It’s told from both Khai and Esme’s perspectives. Khai is an autistic Vietnamese-American guy, while Esme is a young Vietnamese mum. Khai’s meddling mum heads to Vietnam to try and find a wife for her unsuspecting son and meets Esme. She convinces her to come to live with her son in the States over the summer, in the hopes they fall madly in love and marry. Of course, there are plenty of ups and downs as Esme tries to settle into American life and Khai tries to accept her unsettling presence in his life. I loved the dynamic between Khai and Esme and could not put this book down. If you’ve also read The Kiss Quotient, The Bride Test has just as many steamy and cringe-worthy scenes.
3. The Switch
The Switch is Beth O’Leary’s second novel. I was hoping it would be just as good as her debut, The Flatshare and I was not disappointed. The Switch is quite a different story though, but still just as charming and heartwarming. It’s told from the perspective of two Eileen Cottons. Leena is a 20-something Londoner struggling with her sister’s death and Eileen is her nearly 80-year-old grandma from the Yorkshire Dales. After a workplace meltdown, Leena takes a two-month sabbatical and convinces her grandma to swap houses and lives. So Eileen moves into her granddaughter’s Shoreditch apartment and navigates the London dating scene, while Leena becomes a part of the local community and heals her broken relationship with her mum. The Switch features refreshing angles, an interesting cast of supportive characters and focuses on the importance of family, friends and community.
(Disclosure: I received a review copy through NetGalley but all opinions are my own).
Autoboyography is the best YA book I’ve read in years. The main character is Tanner, a bisexual Californian teen living in a small Utah town with overly supportive parents. We meet him in his last semester of high school, which is when he meets and instantly falls in love with Sebastian, a Mormon prodigy. It follows their secret blossoming relationship and Sebastian’s identity crisis. I have always been a fan of Christina Lauren’s writing style and it’s no different in Autoboyography. However, in this book, I feel like they handle sensitive topics like religion and sexuality in a careful but nonetheless eye-opening way. With dashes of humour alongside heartbreaking moments, this was another book I couldn’t put down.
5. Into the Darkest Day
Into the Darkest Day is one of the most surprising books I’ve read so far this year. I didn’t know what to expect but I ended up absolutely falling in love with this historical fiction novel. The author, Kate Hewitt certainly has a gifted way with words. Her descriptive writing style only got better as the book progressed. Into the Darkest Day is set in World War II London and present-day America. It begins with a British teacher, Simon reaching out to an American woman named Abby. He explains that her late grandma (Sophie) asked him to return her late grandfather (Tom’s) Purple Heart. While the pair begin to unravel how their grandparents knew each other, they learn to forgive their own past mistakes.
In the meantime, we travel to World War II London, where sisters Sophie and Lily meet American soldiers Tom and Matthew. The book takes an unexpected turn as it focuses predominantly on Lily and Matthew’s blossoming relationship. It also sees us follow Matthew into battle, which will undoubtedly pull at your heartstrings. I found myself unable to put this book down as I needed to know if Lily and Matthew got their happily ever after in the end. If you enjoy reading historical fiction, definitely check out Into the Darkest Day.
(I also received a copy of Into the Darkest Day for review purposes through NetGalley).
6. City of Girls
In May, I finally decided to embrace audiobooks, as my library has a free audiobook app available. Now I’m kicking myself for not looking into them sooner, as they make morning walks so much more interesting. Anyway, the first audiobook I listened to was City of Girls. I believe the narrator, Blair Brown has spoiled all future audiobooks for me because her storytelling abilities were incredibly captivating. She is one of the main reasons I loved the book so much!
Written by Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame), in City of Girls 95-year-old Vivian Morris retells her life story in a (very long) letter. She reflects on the stories, people and places that shaped her life. We begin in the early 1940s when Vivian is kicked out of Vassar College. Her parents proceed to send Vivian to live with her Aunt Peg at the Lily Playhouse in New York City. This is where she meets an intoxicating mix of interesting characters until a scandal turns her world upside down. However, this pinnacle moment unexpectedly leads her to meet the unconventional love of her life. We follow Vivian through the war and onto her (once again) unconventional life in New York City. Through descriptive writing, I felt like I was walking the streets of New York alongside Vivian. This book is undoubtedly worth the hype.
I’d heard nothing but rave reviews for Becoming, so I’m glad I was able to finally read it for myself. Former First Lady Michelle Obama takes her readers on a journey. We begin with her childhood growing up on Chicago’s South Side. Then she heads to Princeton University before meeting Barack back in Chicago and eventually “becoming” First Lady. Obama’s honest and candid storytelling is captivating in every way. I may have also liked her subtle digs about the incumbent president 😏. Becoming is a book that everyone should read and that many people can learn from.
8. Beach Read
I devoured Beach Read in less than three days! The delightful romance novel is about romance novels, among other things. January Andrews is an author who unexpectedly moves next door to her college rival and fellow author, Augustus Everett for the summer. Taking place about six years after graduation, January is reeling from the loss of her father who was apparently leading a double life. She’s also struggling to write her next romance novel. Gus is also in a writing rut, so they decide to help each other out and swap genres for the summer. January will write the next Great American Novel, while Gus has to write something with a happy ending.
One of the main reasons I loved this book was that it wasn’t one-dimensional but instead had complex layers. Although it focuses primarily on January moving through the grieving process, we also see Gus trying to accept his past as well. I really enjoyed Emily Henry’s writing style and I truly look forward to seeing what she does next. Beach Read is definitely tied for top romance read spot alongside The Flatshare.
(This was another ARC I received thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Books UK, but all ravings are my own).
9. The Rosie Project
Ok, why did it take me so long to read The Rosie Project? This was another audiobook I listened to on my morning walks. It’s a fantastically unconventional romance novel; refreshingly told from Don’s perspective. A genetics professor, Don has never been on a second date, but nonetheless embarks on The Wife Project – a 16-page questionnaire that he believes will lead him to his ideal life partner. However, then he meets Rosie, who seems to be exactly what he’s not looking for. Don helps her find her biological father and in turn discovers that you may find love in the most unexpected places and people.
A well-written novel, I really enjoyed Rosie and Don’s blossoming relationship and Don in general. He was both entertaining and caring, considering the lengths he went to to help Rosie with The Father Project. I’m so excited that there are two sequels for me to now enjoy as well. If you’re searching for an easy-to-read but slightly unconventional romance read, check out The Rosie Project.
10. The Lost Love Song
I absolutely loved reading The Lost Love Song. It’s a beautifully written novel featuring several interwoven stories, which all serendipitously connect to each other in the end. In the beginning, we meet classical pianist Diana and her fiance Arie in Melbourne. Diana embarks on a world tour and composes a love song for Arie while sitting at a piano in a random Singapore hotel. From there, this lost love song travels around the world. It begins in London and then heads to Edinburgh, where it’s overheard by Evie – an Australian poet who’s been aimlessly wandering around the world for six years.
That’s all I’m going to say, as I don’t want to spoil the story. But the final thing I loved about the interwoven stories is that Darke perfectly encapsulates some of my favourite cities. I could see myself in Edinburgh and listening to buskers at Granville Island Market in Vancouver. Perfect for fans of Josie Silver and Beth O’Leary, I highly recommend The Lost Love Song to anyone who loves a good romance novel.
(Disclosure: I received a review copy thanks to NetGalley and the publisher).
11. Take a Hint, Dani Brown
Wow, Talia Hibbert is back with another sassy and steamy romantic comedy. Take a Hint, Dani Brown is told from both Dani and Zaf’s perspective. Dani agrees to fake date her friend, Zaf after a video of him rescuing her from their office building goes viral. Why? Well, the unexpected publicity is working wonders for ex-rugby player Zaf’s sports charity, Tackle It. Dani doesn’t do relationships, but there’s something about Zaf that has her changing her mind.
There were a lot of things I loved about this book. Firstly, it was charming and hilarious, while simultaneously delving into important topics like anxiety and body confidence. I also loved Hibbert’s witty remarks and the banter between Dani and Zaf. It’s hard not to fall in love with the two main characters. This book is the definition of unputdownable. If you like your romance with a side of steam, pick it up immediately!
(I also received a review copy of this delightful book).