Looking Back On 2020 Including My Favourite Reads

Well 2020’s been a bit of a year hasn’t it? I don’t usually share my books of the year until 31st December but have decided as of today I am taking a break from blogging and social media until 2021.

For me 2020 actually began to go pear shaped at 1.35AM on Boxing Day morning 2019 when we got an emergency call out to my Mum and had to dash round to sort her out. She was unwell for several weeks and looking after her has been an ongoing issue throughout the year. Between then and New Year I discovered the slight discomfort in my cheek was actually coming from an abscess in a tooth. Several visits to a specialist in Cambridge, another in Melton Mowbray and many hundreds of pounds poorer, it transpires the infection has probably been dormant for years as I had a rogue hidden canal between two tooth roots. I’ve had the tooth extracted and the one event in the diary for 2021 so far is an indirect sinus lift and an implant to look forward to, although with the spiralling cases of Covid I may postpone that treatment until I’ve had the vaccine!

Speaking of Covid, some of you know that my husband and I are nick-named the CLASHes – the Curse of Linda and Steve Hill – because, although we love travel, wherever we go there seems to be a problem. For example, we’ve had a car bomb in Spain, an earthquake in Cyprus, massacres in Egypt, floods after 27 years of drought in Africa and all kinds of ‘adventures’. I was even beaten up by a kangaroo in Australia and of course, when we visited Uluru, one of the driest places on earth, it rained.

When I tell you that we were meant to be touring China in September this year, flying into Wuhan and then, after the tour, we should have been boarding The Diamond Princess for a return to Japan on a cruise, you might see what those friends mean about the kind of luck we bring! We had intended to return to Barcelona in May and cruise the Norwegian Fjords in June after heading back to India for most of March as we’ve only ever been to Mumbai, and the centre of India to tiger reserves, before. Sadly none of those things came to pass.

We did, however, decide to blow my forthcoming lump sum from when I turn 60 in April 2021 on a motorhome. We collected it on 1st October and, before the second lockdown and then being slammed into tier 3, we managed to have a day trip to Hunstanton, two nights in Sutton-on-Sea and two nights in the Norfolk Broads as we didn’t have to use any facilities that brought us into contact with others. Oh the glamour! Not quite the Taj Mahal or the Great Wall of China but we saw an otter, a seal and a marsh harrier and we appreciate how lucky we are to have been able to get away at all.

I have been exceptionally cautious during the Covid pandemic, to the extent that I have been ridiculed and vilified by some! But when one of its consequences is to thicken the blood and my husband has already had a stroke when he was 56, I’m happy to be scorned if it means it keeps him safe. Add in my 87 year old mother whose shopping I take twice a week and I know I’m doing the right thing until we are all vaccinated.

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom though. I was thrilled to feature in both Woman’s Own and Woman’s Weekly this year and in a local magazine The Village Diary as well as on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour that you can listen to here if you’re remotely interested! I’m on about 20 minutes in after Justine Green and Kate Humble!

I’ve ‘attended’ all manner of online book events and it was a great honour to interview Elly Griffiths for the Deepings’ Literary Festival November Nights a few weeks ago.

With gardening, and the home gym, books have been a complete distraction in 2020. Like many others, for a while I couldn’t settle to reading, and at one point when I was getting upwards of 200 email requests a day for blog slots I thought hard about continuing to blog because about two hours a day were spent just trawling through and answering emails, but eventually I settled into a pattern and when I simply couldn’t concentrate on reading I did something else. I have made the decision not to accept new blog tours in 2021 aside from those I have already accepted, books I’m desperate to read or if requests come directly from authors.

That said, I have managed over 150 reads and 293 blog posts in 2020. I never give stars for a book on Linda’s Book Bag because it feels like too blunt an instrument to me. I do, however, keep a spreadsheet where I score books out of 100. Those attaining 95+/100 become my books of the year so I don’t have any limits like top 20. It simply depends on what I enjoyed the most and it is those books I’d like to highlight here today.

They are presented in the order I read them, NOT in rank order! If you click on the titles, you will be able to read my full reviews.

Three Hours – Rosamund Lupton

three hours

Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.

It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.

It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.

It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.

In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. From the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.

The First Time I Saw You – Emma Cooper

The First Time I saw you

Lost:
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.

Before Sophie met Samuel she saw the world in grey.
Before Samuel met Sophie, he never believed in love at first sight.

When they first meet, something tells them they are meant to be.
But fate has other ideas.

Now they have lost each other and can’t see a way back.
But they’ve already changed each other’s lives in more ways than they ever expected…

Dear Life – Rachel Clarke

dear life

As a specialist in palliative medicine, Dr Rachel Clarke chooses to inhabit a place many people would find too tragic to contemplate. Every day she tries to bring care and comfort to those reaching the end of their lives and to help make dying more bearable.

Rachel’s training was put to the test in 2017 when her beloved GP father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She learned that nothing – even the best palliative care – can sugar-coat the pain of losing someone you love.

And yet, she argues, in a hospice there is more of what matters in life – more love, more strength, more kindness, more joy, more tenderness, more grace, more compassion – than you could ever imagine. For if there is a difference between people who know they are dying and the rest of us, it is simply this: that the terminally ill know their time is running out, while we live as though we have all the time in the world.

Dear Life is a book about the vital importance of human connection, by the doctor we would all want by our sides at a time of crisis. It is a love letter – to a father, to a profession, to life itself.

The Snow Collectors – Tina May Hall

The Snow Collectors

Haunted by the loss of her parents and twin sister at sea, Henna cloisters herself in a Northeastern village where the snow never stops. When she discovers the body of a young woman at the edge of the forest, she’s plunged into the mystery of a centuries-old letter regarding one of the most famous stories of Arctic exploration—the Franklin expedition, which disappeared into the ice in 1845.

At the center of the mystery is Franklin’s wife, the indomitable Lady Jane. Henna’s investigation draws her into a gothic landscape of locked towers, dream-like nights of snow and ice, and a crumbling mansion rife with hidden passageways and carrion birds. But it soon becomes clear that someone is watching her—someone who is determined to prevent the truth from coming out.

 Suspenseful and atmospheric, The Snow Collectors sketches the ghosts of Victorian exploration against the eerie beauty of a world on the edge of environmental collapse.

Wild Spinning Girls -Carol Lovekin

Wild Spinning Girls Cover

If it wasn’t haunted before she came to live there, after she died, Ty’r Cwmwl made room for her ghost. She brought magic with her.

And the house, having held its breath for years, knew it. Ida Llewellyn loses her job and her parents in the space of a few weeks and, thrown completely off course, she sets out for the Welsh house her father has left her. Ty’r Cwmwl is not at all welcoming despite the fact it looks inhabited, as if someone just left..

It is being cared for as a shrine by the daughter of the last tenant. Determined to scare off her old home’s new landlord, Heather Esyllt Morgan sides with the birds who terrify Ida and plots to evict her. The two girls battle with suspicion and fear before discovering that the secrets harboured by their thoughtless parents have grown rotten with time. Their broken hearts will only mend once they cast off the house and its history, and let go of the keepsakes that they treasure like childhood dreams.

The Lost Lights of St Kilda – Elisabeth Gifford

Lost Lights of St Kilda Cover

A sweeping novel set on the Scottish island of St Kilda, following the last community to live there before it was evacuated in 1930.

When Fred Lawson takes a summer job on St Kilda in 1927, little does he realise that he has joined the last community to ever live on that desolate, isolated island. Only three years later, St Kilda will be evacuated, the islanders near-dead from starvation. But for Fred, that summer is the bedrock of his whole life…

Chrissie Gillies is just nineteen when the researchers come to St Kilda. Hired as their cook, she can’t believe they would ever notice her, sophisticated and educated as they are. But she soon develops a cautious friendship with Fred, a friendship that cannot be allowed to develop into anything more…

In Five Years – Rebecca Serle

in five years

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Kohan has been in possession of her meticulously crafted answer since she understood the question. On the day that she nails the most important job interview of her career and gets engaged to the perfect man, she’s well on her way to fulfilling her life goals.

That night Dannie falls asleep only to wake up in a different apartment with a different ring on her finger, and in the company of a very different man. The TV is on in the background, and she can just make out the date. It’s the same night – December 15th – but 2025, five years in the future.

It was just a dream, she tells herself when she wakes, but it felt so real… Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four and a half years later, when Dannie turns down a street and there, standing on the corner, is the man from her dream…

The Switch – Beth O’Leary

The Switch

Eileen is sick of being 79.
Leena’s tired of life in her twenties.
Maybe it’s time they swapped places…

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?

Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet Cover

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.

The House at Silvermoor – Tracy Rees

The House at Silvermoor

England, 1899. A new century is dawning, and two young friends are about to enter into a world of money, privilege and family secrets…

Josie has never questioned her life in a South Yorkshire mining village. But everything changes when she meets Tommy from the neighbouring village. Tommy has been destined for a life underground since the moment he was born. But he has far bigger dreams for his future.

United by their desire for something better and by their fascination with the local gentry, Josie and Tommy become fast friends. Wealthy and glamorous, the Sedgewicks of Silvermoor inhabit a world that is utterly forbidden to Tommy and Josie. Yet as the new century arrives, the pair become entangled with the grand family, and discover a long hidden secret.

Will everything change as they all step forward into the new dawn…?

We Begin at the End – Chris Whittaker

We Begin at the End

‘You can’t save someone that doesn’t want to be saved . . .’

Thirty years ago, Vincent King became a killer.

Now, he’s been released from prison and is back in his hometown of Cape Haven, California. Not everyone is pleased to see him. Like Star Radley, his ex-girlfriend, and sister of the girl he killed.

Duchess Radley, Star’s thirteen-year-old daughter, is part-carer, part-protector to her younger brother, Robin – and to her deeply troubled mother. But in trying to protect Star, Duchess inadvertently sets off a chain of events that will have tragic consequences not only for her family, but also the whole town.

Murder, revenge, retribution.

How far can we run from the past when the past seems doomed to repeat itself?

A Wedding at the Beach Hut – Veronica Henry

The Wedding at the Beach Hut Cover

Escape to Everdene Sands, where the sun is shining – but is the tide about to turn?

Robyn and Jake are planning their dream wedding at the family beach hut in Devon. A picnic by the turquoise waves, endless sparkling rosé and dancing barefoot on the golden sand . . .

But Robyn is more unsettled than excited. She can’t stop thinking about the box she was given on her eighteenth birthday, and the secrets it contains. Will opening it reveal the truth about her history – and break the hearts of the people she loves most?

As the big day arrives, can everyone let go of the past and step into a bright new future?

 

Hello, Again – Isabelle Broom

Hello Again

Philippa Taylor (Pepper to her friends) has big dreams. When she closes her eyes, she can picture exactly who she ought to be. The problem is, it’s about as far away from her real life in a small coastal town in Suffolk as she can imagine.

So when her elderly friend Josephine persuades Pepper to accompany her on a trip to Europe, she jumps at the chance to change her routine. And when Pepper bumps (literally) into the handsome Finn in Lisbon, it seems as though she might have finally found what she’s been looking for.

But Pepper know all too well things are rarely as they seem. Her own quiet life hides a dark secret from the past. And even though she and Finn may have been destined to find each other, Pepper suspects life may have other plans as to how the story should end.

A romantic and sweeping story about friendship, love and realising that sometimes it’s about the journey, not the destination.

A Saint in Swindon – Alice Jolly

When a stranger arrives in town, with a bulging blue bag and a whiff of adventure, the neighbourhood takes notice. When he asks for his meals to be sent to his room and peace and quiet for reading, curiosity turns to obsession.

Each day he stays there, locked in his room, demanding books: Plath, Kafka, Orwell, Lawrence, Fitzgerald, James, Bronte (the eldest), Dickens, Dumas, Kesey – on and on, the stranger never leaving his room. Who exactly is he? What is he reading? And will it be able to save us from the terrible state of the world?

Written by award-winning author Alice Jolly, and based on an idea by the book lovers of Swindon town, this funny and, ultimately, dystopian tale, reminds us of the importance of literature in an increasingly dark world.

A Hundred Million Years and a Day – Jean Baptiste Andrea

a hundred million

Stan has been hunting for fossils since the age of six. Now, in the summer of 1954, he hears a story he cannot forget: the skeleton of a huge creature – a veritable dragon – lies deep in an Alpine glacier. And he is determined to find it.

But Stan is no mountaineer. To complete his dangerous expedition, he must call on loyal friend Umberto, who arrives with an eccentric young assistant, and expert guide Gio. Time is short: the four men must descend before the weather turns. As bonds are forged and tested, the hazardous quest for the earth’s lost creatures becomes a journey into Stan’s own past.

Mike Craven – The Curator

The Curator

It’s Christmas and a serial killer is leaving displayed body parts all over Cumbria. A strange message is left at each scene: #BSC6

Called in to investigate, the National Crime Agency’s Washington Poe and Tilly Bradshaw are faced with a case that makes no sense. Why were some victims anaesthetized, while others died in appalling agony? Why is their only suspect denying what they can irrefutably prove but admitting to things they weren’t even aware of? And why did the victims all take the same two weeks off work three years earlier?

And when a disgraced FBI agent gets in touch things take an even darker turn. Because she doesn’t think Poe is dealing with a serial killer at all; she thinks he’s dealing with someone far, far worse – a man who calls himself the Curator.

And nothing will ever be the same again . . .

Sunny days and Sea Breezes – Carole Matthews

Sunny days

Jodie Jackson is all at sea, in every sense.

On a ferry bound for the Isle of Wight, she’s leaving her London life, her career, and her husband behind. She’d like a chance to turn back the clocks, but she’ll settle for some peace and quiet on her brother Bill’s beautifully renovated houseboat, Sunny Days.

But from the moment Jodie steps aboard her new home, it’s clear she’ll struggle to keep herself to herself. If it isn’t Marilyn, who cleans for Bill and is under strict instructions to look after Jodie, then it’s Ned, the noisy sculptor on the next-door houseboat. Ned’s wood carving is hard on the ears, but it’s made up for by the fact that he’s rather easy on the eyes.

Bustled out of the boat by Marilyn and encouraged to explore with Ned, Jodie soon delights in her newfound freedom. But out of mind isn’t out of sight, and when her old life comes knocking Jodie is forced to face reality. Will she answer the call or choose a life filled with Sunny Days and Sea Breezes?

The Life We Almost Had – Amelia Henley

The Life We Almost Had

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…

A beautiful and emotional love story that asks, how far would you go for a second chance at first love? Perfect for fans of The Man Who Didn’t Call and Miss You.

The Siege of Caerlaverock – Barbara Henderson

The Siege of Caerlaverock Paperback FOIL FINAL JUNE 20203 (2)

Enemies within.

Enemies without.

Nowhere to hide.

12-year-old Ada is a laundress of little consequence, but the new castle commander Brian de Berclay has his evil eye on her. Perhaps she shouldn’t have secretly fed the young prisoner in the tower.

But when the King of England crosses the border with an army over 3000 strong, Ada, her friend Godfrey and all at Caerlaverock suddenly find themselves under attack, with only 60 men for protection.

Soon, rocks and flaming arrows rain from the sky over Castle Caerlaverock—and Ada has a dangerous choice to make.

Betty – Tiffany McDaniel

‘A girl comes of age against the knife’

So begins the story of Betty Carpenter

Born in a bathtub in 1954 to a Cherokee father and white mother, Betty is the sixth of eight siblings. The world they inhabit is one of poverty and violence – both from outside the family and also, devastatingly, from within. When her family’s darkest secrets are brought to light, Betty has no choice but to reckon with the brutal history hiding in the hills, as well as the heart-wrenching cruelties and incredible characters she encounters in her rural town of Breathed, Ohio.

Despite the hardship she faces, Betty is resilient. Her curiosity about the natural world, her fierce love for her sisters and her father’s brilliant stories are kindling for the fire of her own imagination, and in the face of all she bears witness to, Betty discovers an escape: she begins to write.

A heartbreaking yet magical story, BETTY is a punch-in-the-gut of a novel – full of the crushing cruelty of human nature and the redemptive power of words.

Our Story – Miranda Dickinson

Our story

Otty has just landed her dream job. She’s about to join the writing team of one of the most respected showrunners in TV. And then the night before her first day, she’s evicted from her flat.

Joe has been working with Russell for years. He’s the best writer on his team, but lately something has been off. He’s trying to get his mojo back, but when his flatmate moves out without warning he has other things to worry about.

Otty moving into Joe’s house seems like the perfect solution to both their problems, but neither is prepared for what happens next. Paired together in the writing room, their obvious chemistry sparks from the page and they are the writing duo to beat. But their relationship off the page is an entirely different story, and neither of them can figure out why.

And suddenly the question isn’t, will they, or won’t they? It’s why won’t they?

An epic and modern love story for our times, we will all see ourselves reflected in Otty and Joe. We are our own biggest barriers and this novel explores what happens when we get out of our own way. And it is glorious.

Older and Wider – Jenny Eclair

‘If you’re after an in-depth medical or psychological insight into the menopause, I’m afraid you’ve opened the wrong book – I’m not a doctor . . . However, I am a woman and I do know how it feels to be menopausal, so this book is written from experience and the heart and I hope it makes you laugh and feel better.’ JE

Older and Wider is Jenny Eclair’s hilarious, irreverent and refreshingly honest compendium of the menopause. From C for Carb-loading and G for Getting Your Shit Together to I for Invisibility and V for Vaginas, Jenny’s whistle-stop tour of the menopause in all its glory will make you realise that it really isn’t just you. Jenny will share the surprising lessons she has learnt along the way as well as her hard-won tips on the joy of cardigans, dealing with the empty nest (get a lodger) and keeping the lid on the pressure cooker of your temper (count to twenty, ten is never enough).

As Jenny says, ‘I can’t say that I’ve emerged like a beautiful butterfly from some hideous old menopausal chrysalis and it would be a lie to say that I’ve found the ‘old me’ again. But what I have found is the ‘new me’ – and you know what? I’m completely cool with that.’

A Year of Living Simply – Kate Humble

If there is one thing that most of us aspire to, it is, simply, to be happy.  And yet attaining happiness has become, it appears, anything but simple. Having stuff – The Latest, The Newest, The Best Yet – is all too often peddled as the sure fire route to happiness.  So why then, in our consumer-driven society, is depression, stress and anxiety ever more common, affecting every strata of society and every age, even, worryingly, the very young?  Why is it, when we have so much, that many of us still feel we are missing something and the rush of pleasure when we buy something new turns so quickly into a feeling of emptiness, or purposelessness, or guilt?

So what is the route to real, deep, long lasting happiness?  Could it be that our lives have just become overly crowded, that we’ve lost sight of the things – the simple things – that give a sense of achievement, a feeling of joy or excitement? That make us happy.  Do we need to take a step back, reprioritise?  Do we need to make our lives more simple?

Kate Humble’s fresh and frank exploration of a stripped-back approach to life is uplifting, engaging and inspiring – and will help us all find balance and happiness every day.

The Stolen Sisters – Louise Jensen

Sisterhood binds them. Trauma defines them. Will secrets tear them apart?

Leah’s perfect marriage isn’t what it seems but the biggest lie of all is that she’s learned to live with what happened all those years ago. Marie drinks a bit too much to help her forget. And Carly has never forgiven herself for not keeping them safe.

Twenty years ago the Sinclair sisters were taken. But what came after their return was far worse. Can a family ever recover, especially when not everyone is telling the truth…?

The Salt Path -Raynor Winn

Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home is taken away and they lose their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.

Carrying only the essentials for survival on their backs, they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.

The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.

This Time Next Year – Sophie Cousens

This Time Next Year Cover (1)

Get ready to fall for this year’s most extraordinary love story

Quinn and Minnie are born on New Year’s Eve, in the same hospital, one minute apart.

Their lives may begin together, but their worlds couldn’t be more different.

Thirty years later they find themselves together again in the same place, at the same time.

What if fate is trying to bring them together?

Maybe it’s time to take a chance on love…

Gobbledy – Lis Anna-Langston

Ever since eleven-year-old Dexter Duckworth and his brother, Dougal, lost their mom, everything has been different. But “different” takes on a whole new meaning when, one day just before Christmas (or Kissmas, as they call it), Dexter finds a golden rock in the forest that hatches into an adorable alien. Gobbledy is smarter than he seems and is lost on planet Earth. Before long, Gobbledy takes Dexter, Dougal, and their best friend Fi on an adventure of friendship, family, and loss—one that requires them all to stay out of trouble, protect Gobbledy from a shadowy group called the Planetary Society, and prepare for their school’s Winter Extravaganza Play, where Dexter has to be a dreaded Gingerbread Man.

Gobbledy is a fun-filled holiday story that adds up to two brothers, three friends, unlimited jars of peanut butter, a ketchup factory, and one little alien far, far from home.

The Boy Between – Amanda Prowse and Josiah Hartley

Bestselling novelist Amanda Prowse knew how to resolve a fictional family crisis. But then her son came to her with a real one…

Josiah was nineteen with the world at his feet when things changed. Without warning, the new university student’s mental health deteriorated to the point that he planned his own death. His mother, bestselling author Amanda Prowse, found herself grappling for ways to help him, with no clear sense of where that could be found. This is the book they wish had been there for them during those dark times.

Josiah’s situation is not unusual: the statistics on student mental health are terrifying. And he was not the only one suffering; his family was also hijacked by his illness, watching him struggle and fearing the day he might succeed in taking his life.

In this book, Josiah and Amanda hope to give a voice to those who suffer, and to show them that help can be found. It is Josiah’s raw, at times bleak, sometimes humorous, but always honest account of what it is like to live with depression. It is Amanda’s heart-rending account of her pain at watching him suffer, speaking from the heart about a mother’s love for her child.

For anyone with depression and anyone who loves someone with depression, Amanda and Josiah have a clear message—you are not alone, and there is hope.

337 – M. Jonathan Lee

337 follows the life of Samuel Darte whose mother vanished when he was in his teens. It was his brother, Tom who found her wedding ring on the kitchen table along with the note.

While their father pays the price of his mother’s disappearance, Sam learns that his long-estranged Gramma is living out her last days in a nursing home nearby.

Keen to learn about what really happened that day and realising the importance of how little time there is, he visits her to finally get the truth.

Soon it’ll be too late and the family secrets will be lost forever. Reduced to ashes. But in a story like this, nothing is as it seems.

The Clearing – Samantha Clarke

This house has been a regular presence in my life for as long as I can remember. My heart has sunk a little every time I walk in . . .

Samantha Clark enjoyed a busy career as an artist before returning home to Glasgow to take care of the house that her parents had left behind. Moving from room to room, sifting through the clutter of belongings, reflecting on her mother’s long, sedated years of mental illness and her father’s retreat to the world of amateur radio and model planes, Samantha began to contemplate her inheritance.

A need for creativity and a desire for solitude had sprung up from a childhood shaped by anxiety and confusion. Weaving in the works and lives of others, including celebrated painter Agnes Martin and scientist of dark matter Vera Rubin, The Clearing is a powerful account of what we must do with the things we cannot know.

The Flip Side – James Bailey

It’s New Year’s Eve and Josh has a high-flying proposal planned. An exclusive pod on the London Eye, with champagne, truffles and the ring. It’s perfect.

Until she says no. And they have to spend the next 29 excruciating minutes alone together.

By the time Josh is back on the ground, his whole life is up in the air. He’s managed to lose his girlfriend, his job and his flat.

Realising he can’t trust his own judgement, Josh puts his faith in fate. From now on he will make every choice by flipping a coin. It’s reckless and scary, but Josh has tried the right way and look where he ended up.

And what if the girl of his dreams is just one flip of a coin away?

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day – Milly Johnson

It’s nearly Christmas and it’s snowing, hard. Deep in the Yorkshire Moors nestles a tiny hamlet, with a pub at its heart. As the snow falls, the inn will become an unexpected haven for six people forced to seek shelter there…

Mary has been trying to get her boss Jack to notice her for four years, but he can only see the efficient PA she is at work. Will being holed up with him finally give her the chance she has been waiting for?

Bridge and Luke were meeting for five minutes to set their divorce in motion. But will getting trapped with each other reignite too many fond memories – and love?

Charlie and Robin were on their way to a luxury hotel in Scotland for a very special Christmas. But will the inn give them everything they were hoping to find – and much more besides?

A story of knowing when to hold on and when to let go, of pushing limits and acceptance, of friendship, love, laughter, mince pies and the magic of Christmas.

Gorgeous, warm and full of heartfelt emotion, I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day is the perfect read this winter!

*

Phew! That’s quite some list. I don’t know whether it was the quality of the books, my need for escapism in 2020 or something else but these particular books have stayed with me throughout the year and I’ve loved them. I only wish I could have included all those that scored 90-94% in my personal ranking system too! So, with this many books bringing me such joy, which was my overall favourite?

Like last year (see here), there are two which scored the highest marks jointly and they were Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton and The Life We Almost Had by Amelia Henley. Both books couldn’t be more different from one another and yet they both have an emotional quality I found exceptional.

However hard and unusual 2020 has been, books have remained a constant in my life. I am incredibly grateful to all the authors, publicists, blog tour organisers and publishers who have sent me books for review. I cannot thank you all enough. Similarly, to all of you who follow Linda’s Book Bag, those who share my blog posts and support me, I want to say thank you for helping me share the book love. I hope you’ve found a book to bring you joy through my posts over the year.

Here’s hoping 2021 will be happy and healthy for all of you. Happy New Year!

Linda x

37 thoughts on “Looking Back On 2020 Including My Favourite Reads

  1. Nick Jones says:

    Merry Christmas Linda! Thanks for making my year better by reviewing my book One Night in Beartown, I’m so grateful for the exposure. And it warmed my cockles to see my good friend Jonathan Lee on your best of 2020 list. I haven’t had a chance to read it myself yet but can’t wait to do so! Have a lovely Christmas and thanks again for all that you do for authors. 😁👍

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great list Linda and of course we have many books in common! Your campervan looks amazing (my Steve would be very jealous!). I do hope you can have many trips at least around the UK next year – come and see me! Here’s hoping for a kinder 2021.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a year seems inadequate to sum up 2020 but, like you, the joy of books and the virtual friendship of the book blogging community has helped me through it. Enjoy your Christmas break and I hope we get the better 2021 we all deserve.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous says:

    Ooh! The Snow Collectors sounds fabulous! I love to read and write stories like this and can’t wait to dive it. Thank you for such a wonderful list of books and congrats on the new motor home. Looks like lots of fun. Happy holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh dear, I’ve spotted a few I fancy and don’t have. I suppose on the plus side I’ve also bought quite a lot of them as well. I just need to read them!! Have a great Christmas break and looking forward to whatever temptations you’ll be offering in the New Year. Much love xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 😂 I’m very glad to hear that! I’m actually allowing myself to read a book I bought right now! Have a safe and happy Christmas Jill. Look after yourself and here’s to a healthy and happy 2021 too xx

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Anne Williams says:

    Quite a year Linda! And I love your book choices – we have a few in common, and several others are waiting for that promised breather (January’s disappeared on me…) when I can read some of the books I’d really love to catch up with.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have Rob. I’m very grateful for the life I have – even when I’m feeling a bit blue. Thank you for your blog support. Have a safe and happy Christmas and above all else, a healthy 2021 x

    Like

  9. Happy Christmas Linda. Hope you manage to relax and recharge your batteries and that your Christmas is less eventful than last year.

    Here’s hoping for a brighter 2021 and a catch up at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great, I’m trying to at least read one book in the month I’ve bought it, or I was until I had my Christmas fest. That still leaves rather a lot unread though. All best wishes for Christmas and the coming year. It has to get better doesn’t it? xx

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Wendy Janes says:

    Merry Christmas, Linda. Thank you for another year of excellent reviews and articles. Wishing you a healthy 2021, and I hope you have a wonderful time travelling in your new motorhome.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. philipjamessimons says:

    Great list. Kate Humble’s book especially is of interest to me – it is one that I keep meaning to purchase but haven’t gotten around to it yet. It’s right up my alley, as they say.

    Also, I love this post itself and, as something of a fledgling blogger myself (monstareader.blogspot.com) I am in awe of your blog, and the awards and recognition you’ve garnered. Congratulations!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Thanks so much Philip. I’m hoping to interview Kate Humble about Year of Living Simply for my local literary festival later in the year. Good luck with your own blog. I will have to pay you a visit!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. philipjamessimons says:

    Ooh! I will definitely be keeping an eye out for that interview! Hopefully by then life will be back on its way to normal – whatever normal might mean now. And, thank you – I hope you find something there you like. I am still finding my feet.

    Liked by 1 person

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