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This year, like many others, I embarked on a journey to beat my Goodreads books read amount. Reading, escaping to a different world has always been soothing, so I wanted to bring 9 brilliant books to read, which I’ve read this year. While the challenge should change the fun of reading, by putting pressure on it, it actually doesn’t. But that may be because I had a helping hand this year.
Some of you may know I co-founded, and co-host, a weekly book podcast called ‘The Island Library‘. The premise is to share a new book read each week, from each host, and give a short pitch (to entice you to read) and then break the book down, no-spoilers please, and then rate it. It’s a fun way of sharing the books read with others. We then, finally and more importantly, we ask that question I used to ask my friends in the playground:
If you were stuck on a desert island, would this book be added to your list?
When you’re younger or playing it without hosting a podcast, you usually say ‘pick three’, but we were more lenient and gave each other ten spaces.
Throughout season one, which comes to a close just before Christmas, we’ve been building that list, and I, being me, hit nine books two episodes ago. (I’m honestly not prepared to begin ‘virtually throwing books in an ocean’). So, I thought I’d give you a wrap up of the 9 books to read which have been added to my shelf, just in case any of you find yourselves desperate to read during lockdown.
In Five Years
This was the first book I added to my shelf, and one I’ll never regret. The thing about In Five Years is that it’s a romance, but not in the way you think. It will rip your heart out, but in a way, you thank it for doing so. I think I tell every person I meet that this is one of the best books to read, and I’m not planning on stopping anytime soon.
Dannie Kohan has planned her life out, to the point she knows when she is being proposed to. The night she does get engaged, however, she falls asleep and dreams of a night five years in the future where she’s engaged to another man. She keeps telling herself it’s a dream, but it felt so real.
That is, until five years later, when Dannie turns down a street and there, standing on the corner, is the man from her dream…
What If It’s Us
What If It’s Us is a book I read, and knew I’d fall in love with. The romance is cute and endearing; the characters brilliantly young and immature. It had the perfect balance of everything which made this a beautiful, YA read.
Arthur and Ben meet while Ben is carrying his ex-boyfriends things at the post office. Arthur, who is a hopeless romantic, thinks it all must mean something the two of them running into one another. But, neither get the others number, and in a city of eight million people – they can’t find each other again?
What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play? But what if it is?
The Vanishing Half
This book covers almost fifty years, race and family. It is raw, and emotional, peeling back layers you hadn’t known could be found. Brit, the author, manages to show compassion with each chapter, and as she explores each of the four main female characters, you begin to find the answers to the questions you were hunting for.
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
Truly Devious (Series)
I couldn’t put this series down the moment I began it. What started on a whim, picking up the first book, led me to rush to my local bookstore before it closed to get the other two. It is fantastical, mysterious and fun, a super easy read I really struggled to put down.
Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth-century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.” However, shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history. True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case.
The Black Kids
The book cover, with its bright and fun colours, is what initially caught my eye, but as soon as I clapped eyes on the blurb, I knew I had to read it. It did not disappoint. Surprisingly, the most devastating thing is that 2020 hasn’t been all that different from what is depicted in the book. A must-read.
Los Angeles, 1992 Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of high school and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. But everything changes one afternoon in April, when four police officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.
This is best described as a rom-com wrapped in a bow. It’s for those who love cheesy romance, a happy ever after, and those infuriating moments where you want to shake the female character. But, for all it’s worth, I loved every second of this.
Kailyn Flowers always believed she was calm and controlled . . . that is, until she ended up sprawled all over Daxton Hughes, the former actor she totally crushed on as a teenager. Kailyn was mortified – not quite the meet cute she had always dreamed of – but Daxton unexpectedly sought her friendship as a result . . . only to heartlessly betray her soon afterwards.
Eight years later, Dax needs Kailyn’s help. Years of anger towards him haven’t exactly left Kailyn inclined to oblige, but she also isn’t heartless enough to refuse. She vows to be friendly, but soon their ‘friendly’ meetings turn into flirty dinner dates, and Kailyn can feel their chemistry is as explosive as ever. But how can she possibly let down her guard again to a guy who has heartbreak written all over him?
Opposite of Always
One of those books you read and never forget. This book has romance, time-travel and an unmistakable pain to it you just can’t shake. You want to protect Jack, who you come to adore with every page. You want him to do the unthinkable, and root for him at every page.
This book is about consequences and how fragile life is. It’s about balancing everything, and yet knowing you’ll lose something anyway.
I treasure this book and have reread it since finishing it. It’s that good.
When Jack and Kate meet at a party, he knows he’s falling – hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack. But then Kate dies. And their story should end there. Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel.
I do not read thrillers. I should make that clear. But this one had me gripped, and I mean fingers digging into the sides of the book, gripped. It was mesmerising, gorgeously gothic, and yet toed the line of giving me nightmares and keeping me interested. It builds in waves, crashing down over you for a satisfying story you’ll struggle to forget.
When glamorous socialite Noemi Taboada receives a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging to be rescued from a mysterious doom, it’s clear something is desperately amiss. Catalina has always had a flair for the dramatic, but her claims that her husband is poisoning her and her visions of restless ghosts seem remarkable, even for her. Noemi immediately heads to High Place, a remote mansion in the Mexican countryside, determined to discover what is so affecting her cousin and finds there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. And, as Noemi digs deeper, she unearths stories of violence and madness.
This was our first book club read on The Island, and so some may think I added this for sentimental reasons, but I didn’t. It was a celebration of writers, and the characters’ flaws; two broken people finding one another, after already circling one another before. It’s romance, but not in the way you think, and it’s healing without anyone asking or needing for it to be that. It was stunning, and one of the most enjoyable romance reads I’ve had this year.
January is a hopeless romantic who narrates her life like she’s the lead in a blockbuster movie.
Gus is a serious literary type who thinks true love is a fairy-tale.
But January and Gus have more in common than you’d think: They’re both broke. They’ve got crippling writer’s block. And they need to write bestsellers before summer ends. The result? A bet to swap genres and see who gets published first.
The risk? In telling each other’s stories, their worlds might be changed entirely…
What books have you read this year that you’d add to your ‘Island Shelf’ if you were ever found on a desert island? Let me know below.
If you’ve read any of the books above, what were your favourite things about them?