Hello bookish friends and welcome to my final post in a year many of us would rather forget. What a stinker, eh? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the year may have been a big pile of crud but the books have been outstanding, There have been some real beauties published this year and I’ve had the pleasure of reading some fabulous titles. Personally, I have immersed myself in fiction to escape what has been going on around us and as a result – despite having the hubby working from home and home-schooling the kids from March to September – I’ve read more books this year than I have in the last couple of years. Woohoo!
I also managed to complete the #20booksofsummer20 challenge which I have never even come vaguely close to doing in the past. Being a slow reader I didn’t believe it was possible for me to reach the heady heights of Cathy at 746 Books‘ ‘read 20 books in three months’ challenge. Seems all I needed was a lockdown and a target, who knew?! I set myself a target of reading 25% a day which was tough to stick to but by Jove, it worked!
Other blog achievements this year included getting into the groove with posting regularly, which in turn has resulted in more visits and views than last year. And that leads me nicely into thanking YOU for your support. When I first started damppebbles nearly FIVE years ago I had no idea the impact it would have on my life. Reading has always been my passion but I’ve never really discussed books with other people (mainly because I didn’t know anyone who was as keen on reading and books as I was!). The book community welcomed me with open arms and I am truly grateful for that every day. Thank you for following my blog and being interested in my bookish thoughts. I expected maybe ten or so people (in other words, my family) to follow damppebbles (and I would have been incredibly happy with that) but to have over 140 x that many followers is just mind-blowing. Thank you, thank you and thank you again. Your shares, retweets, likes and comments mean the world to me (and yes, I know I’m terrible at replying to comments. I honestly try and keep up 😬😂).
Anyhoo, top ten books of the year and I’m hoping you can’t count 🤭. Here they are in all their gorgeous, sparkly (sometimes gory) glory and in no particular order…
The Hunted by Gabriel Bergmoser
I bloody loved it and I couldn’t put this book down! The Hunted is a terror filled, edge of your seat whirlwind and I was completely immersed in the story from beginning to end. I know some readers baulk at the idea of reading a horror novel but I urge you to give this one a try. Yes, it’s bloody and a little gruesome but it’s such an enthralling, gripping, unsettling story that will worm it’s way under your skin. You don’t want to miss out on this book. An outstanding horror novel that I heartily recommend.
My Review of The Hunted
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
I loved Home Before Dark and I think it will stay with me for some time to come. I’ve come to expect a lot from Sager’s novels (thanks to the magnificent brilliance that is Final Girls) and although I doubt any book (by any author) will ever come close to Final Girls in my eyes, Home Before Dark gets a lot closer than most. It’s absolutely marvellous and I expect it will feature on my ‘top reads of 2020’ list. I loved Home Before Dark and highly recommend you give it a go if you’re not afraid of things that go bump (or in this case THUD – tap, tap, tap…) in the night. Chilling, engaging and deliciously tense. Highly recommended.
My Review of Home Before Dark
Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica (translated by Sarah Moses)
Would I recommend this book? I would, most definitely, but it’s not going to be for everyone. It’s savage, brave, unsettling and utterly unflinching fiction at it’s very best. The way the ‘special meat’ is treated is inhumane and stomach churning and makes me question the way livestock is treated. Vegetarianism could be the way forward for me following this novel! If you’re looking for a book which is dark, disturbing and wholly involving then this is it. Bazterrica does not spare her reader and I absolutely loved it! Highly recommended. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you…
My Review of Tender is the Flesh
Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson
This one is going on the list of favourite books of all time. You don’t have to be a crime fiction aficionado to enjoy this tense and intoxicating read (I’m certainly not). I will say though, that if you’re planning on reading any of the books which feature on Malcolm’s list, then you might want to do that first as there are a few spoilers and an outline of each is given by the author for those who haven’t read them. This book is so much more than you expect and I savoured every moment of it. I urge you to pick up a copy of Rules for Perfect Murders, whether you consider yourself to be bookish or not. It’s a wonderful, thoroughly entertaining homage to the crime and mystery genre and I couldn’t put it down. Nor did I want to. Tightly plotted and packed full of delicious suspense with a character I fell head over heels in love with. Highly recommended.
My Review of Rules for Perfect Murders
The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen
I loved The Stolen Sisters. It’s the most enjoyable, absorbing and exciting psychological thriller I have read in a long time. I was 100% in the pages of this book living the story alongside the characters. A highly emotive read that is incredibly tense and the ultimate page-turner. Did I mention that I loved The Stolen Sisters? Oh well, worth mentioning again. I loved The Stolen Sisters! Louise Jensen is a superb writer. It was an absolute joy to read this book and I will savour the memory of it for a long time to come. Highly recommended.
My Review of The Stolen Sisters
The White Road by Sarah Lotz
The White Road is sublime. Atmospheric, creepy and I was living the story from the opening paragraphs alongside our protagonist, Simon Newman. Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, without a moment’s hesitation. I loved this book because the characters felt so very real to me. I loved this book because it’s like nothing I’ve read before. I loved this book because I think this is my first (literary) trip to Mt. Everest and I find it fascinating the need some people have to conquer the mountain, to risk life and limb, to push your body to it’s absolute limits. It’s chilling, it’s atmospheric and it’s totally involving. Impossible to put down, impossible to forget. An outstanding piece of fiction.
My Review of The White Road
Thirteen Storeys by Jonathan Sims
Thirteen Storeys is a beautifully written contemporary horror novel that I know for sure will leave its mark on me. I don’t remember reading anything like this before and it was an absolute delight. The excitement I felt as I approached the end of the book, having lived through the characters’ trauma with them, was palpable. I couldn’t wait to find out what had happened to Fell. It was a thrilling ride and I was deeply satisfied with the stomach-churning conclusion. I loved this book and would happily read more by this author. Highly recommended.
My Review of Thirteen Storeys
The Mayfly (Charlie Priest #1) by James Hazel
The Mayfly is brilliant and I’ve already downloaded the second book in the series. I loved the chapters set at the end of the Second World War. The unease the author creates is palpable. I didn’t see the big reveal coming but it was perfect and done very well. The entire plot had me hook, line and sinker. If you love tense, gutsy crime novels with just about the right amount of ‘grisly’, you will love The Mayfly. Crime fiction at its finest. Highly recommended.
My Review of The Mayfly
Halfway by B. E. Jones
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, yes! Without a moment’s hesitation. I loved Halfway and I’m so glad I read it. I loved the entire book but I really enjoyed the ending, which was blood-soaked and so very satisfying. I think one of the most impressive things for me though was how the author managed to completely change my opinion of two of the main characters as the end of the book approached. Beautifully written, utterly compelling and really quite addictive. Highly recommended.
My Review of Halfway
I also wanted to give a special mention to The Appeal by Janice Hallett which is being published in January by Viper Books. It’s not officially ‘on the list’ because it’s not published yet but please, please make sure you get hold of a copy…
The Appeal by Janice Hallett
The Appeal is a very clever, all-consuming novel which I struggled to put down. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about the characters. For the duration of my time with this book, I was 100% in its pages and now I’ve finished it, I feel a little bereft. An absolutely outstanding piece of clever, brilliantly written crime fiction that deserves all the awards. I savoured every single moment I had with The Appeal. This is a book you need on your reading list. This is a book everyone is going to be talking about and oh boy, does it deserve it. Compelling and utterly irresistible. Highly recommended.
My Review of The Appeal will be published on 14th January 2021
And my book of 2020 is…
We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker
This book is perfection. I will be driving people crazy recommending We Begin at the End to them. It ticks so many boxes for me; set in small town America – tick, full of the most enchanting and interesting characters – tick, a devilish mystery at it’s heart – tick, leaves me with the biggest emotional bookish hangover – tick. This book is a masterpiece and if you only buy one book this year based on my reviews then please, PLEASE make it this one. I really wish I had the words to convey what a stunning book this is. Absolutely outstanding.
My Review of We Begin at the End
What utter gorgeousness and all in one blog post. I heartily recommend that you read all of these wonderful books. They all have something very special about them and have brightened an otherwise difficult year for me.
Have a peaceful and safe New Year, bookish lovelies, and I will see you on the other side. I’ll be sharing my #R3COMM3ND3D2020 After-Show Party post in January which will feature all 144 books chosen, along with our illustrious winner – the mighty We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker (don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but it’s my book of the year, without a shadow of a doubt 😜) – so keep an eye out for that. Thank you for your support through a difficult year. You are AMAZING! Stay safe, stay bookish and keep reading. Lots of love, Emma @damppebbles x
Fancy buying one of the books on my top ten(ish) of the year? Then please check out my Bookshop.org affiliate page: Bookshop.org/shop/damppebbles