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Friday, 1 January 2021

Review of 2020 – My Pick of the Year

Bye bye 2020
Happy New Year to you all! 2020 was really quite a year, wasn’t it! Unprecedented in so many ways. While New Year’s Eve is never an event I look forward to (because deep down I want to go to one of those huge, swanky 1980s parties that you see in films, like the one in When Harry Met Sally) I actually love the New Year itself, as it’s such a time for reflection and hope for the future.

I found 2020 a mixed bag because on the one hand it was very trying; the stress, the worry about one of us potentially catching Covid and becoming really ill, the home-schooling, the isolation, the worry about the potential effect on my kids’ mental health from being away from school for months, all took a burden on my mental energy. Like many people, I spent the majority of the year feeling like a wrung out dishcloth! I also found working at home while the kids were homeworking really difficult, so hard to concentrate! This meant by the end of the day I was pretty much only good for zombie time in front of the television.

On the other hand, I don’t think I have ever had a year when I have spent so much time feeling grateful for what I have – mine and my family’s continued good health, our lovely home, the fact that I have a job which continued to employ me right through the pandemic and allowed me to stay at home, meaning that I didn’t have to send my children to the hub schools for keyworkers. I was so grateful for the company of my family too, that I wasn’t living alone. Although I became sick and tired of walking in my local area, I also appreciated that we have green space close to where we live to walk around. So, although I found 2020 taxing I also found it a very rewarding year in some ways.

However, one way in which 2020 was entirely dreadful was the effect on my reading. If I am stressed I find it difficult to immerse myself in the written word. My audio reading time was cut overnight to pretty much zero as I used to listen on my commute and during solo lunchtime walks in my work lunch hour, and I lost both of those times. I didn’t get anywhere near my modest reading target for 2020. This is something that I need to rectify in 2021, I want to read more this year.

Although I didn’t get anywhere near as much reading done as I wanted, in terms of quality of reading, I was lucky, because the books I did get to read were good ones! So here’s my pick of the year:

Book cover: Thaw by Anniina Sjöblom
First up was Thaw by Anniina Sjöblom. This is a forced marriage scenario which diverges early on from Pride & Prejudice. Here, Elizabeth marries Mr Darcy after a compromise, which was entirely innocent. It’s told in the form of letters from the new Mrs Darcy to various people, and we see her icy relationship with her husband begin to ‘thaw’. I thought this was a wonderfully charming story, and you can read my 5 star review of it here.


Book cover: 1932: Pride & Prejudice Revisited by Karen M Cox
My next 5 star read was 1932: Pride & Prejudice Revisited by Karen M Cox. This was the second edition of the book, and it’s had a number of improvements to an already excellent story. This is a P&P inspired story set in 1932 in Kentucky. Mr Darcy is a well-to-do farmer, and the Bennets have moved to the same town, having fallen on hard times. The thing I probably enjoyed most about this story is Mr Darcy, who first manages to delude himself as to his feelings, and then lets his pride get in the way. You can read my full review of the second edition of1932 here.


Book cover: Miss Austen by Gill Hornby
Miss Austen by Gill Hornby is a story about Jane Austen’s elder sister Cassandra. This lady, as you may know, undertook an editing of the documents left after Austen’s death. In this story we see Cassandra visiting a family connection in order to try and get hold of letters that Jane would have sent some 20 years ago before they are re-discovered. While finding the letters Cassandra looks back at the events laid out in the letters. I absolutely loved this story, and heartily recommend it as a 5 star read. You can read my review of Miss Austen here.


Book cover: Sanctuary Part 1 by Cat Andrews
Now for a complete change of scene – modern times in New England! Sanctuary by Cat Andrews is a Pride & Prejudice flavoured modern read rather than adhering closely to the plot of P&P. It tells the story of two people who have been hurt by life in different ways and have moved to an island off the coast of Maine for a fresh start. Elizabeth Bennet moved there to make a new life after the end of an abusive marriage, Will Darcy and his son Jack are making a new start after the death of Jack’s mother. It’s a story in 3 parts. You can see my 5 star review of the first part of Sanctuary here. I read all three books but haven’t posted reviews of part 2 and 3 yet.


Book cover: A Wilful Misunderstanding by Amy D'Orazio
The last of my 5 star reads in 2020 was Amy D’Orazio’s A Wilful Misunderstanding which is a Pride & Prejudice variation. Here Elizabeth and Darcy didn’t get off to a bad start, but instead married after a whirlwind romance. When doubts are planted in Darcy’s mind about his wife’s fidelity a rupture is caused between the couple. When they meet again a few years later there is a lot of lost ground to be made up. This is a story with a good pinch of angst which kept me glued to the page! You can read my review of the story here.


Book cover: Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl anthology edited by Christina Boyd
Given that my concentration wasn’t up to much in 2020, the anthology Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl made for nice, small reading chunks. This anthology brought together short stories from some of my favourite Austenesque authors, edited by Christina Boyd. They were all inspired by the heroine of P&P. Some explored variations on Austen’s story, others took Elizabeth to another time. You can read my 4½ star review of the anthology here.


Book cover: Being Mrs Darcy by Lucy Marin
I love a forced marriage scenario, and Being Mrs Darcy by Lucy Marin is a fresh take on it. So often Mr Darcy is madly in love and Elizabeth hates him. Here, the couple meet earlier, when Georgiana visits Ramsgate. Impulsively intervening in a twilight meeting of Georgiana and Mr Wickham, Elizabeth and Mr Darcy are strangers, forced to marry. You can read my 4½ star review here.


Book cover: Disenchanted by Kara Pleasants
With Kara Pleasants’ Disenchanted we find ourselves in a Pride & Prejudice variation set in a world where magic exists! I loved how magic was intertwined with several of the events and characters of P&P, and there are also some mysteries to unravel. This was a 4½ star read for me, and you can read my review here.

In another change of scene, The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner takes us to Chawton, Jane Austen’s last home, just after WWII. In this story, a group of otherwise disparate people are brought together by their love of Austen in order to save her home for future generations. This was a story that really drew me in. You can read my 4½ star review of it here. If you choose to read it and like the audio format, please note that the audio of this book is narrated by Richard Armitage!


Book cover: A Timely Elopement by Joana Starnes
The last of my pick of the year is A Timely Elopement by Joana Starnes which picks up at Hunsford Parsonage. Mr Darcy is proposing, but just as Elizabeth is about to reply they are interrupted by the news of an elopement and the story takes a turn. This was a lovely story, which took turns that I wasn’t expecting, always refreshing in the a variation of P&P when you have read so many! I rated this as a 4½ star read and you can read my review here.

So, this is my pick of 2020! I recommend each and every one of these books to you if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading them already.

How was your 2020? Please let me know in the comments! If you’d like to recommend one of your 2020 reads to please do! I have a rough idea of some of the books I’d like to read in 2021, but I am always open to suggestions!

Note about comments: If you have any problems adding your comment please contact me and I will add your comment for you :)

Also, if you're on Goodreads and you'd like to join an Austenesque readers' group, Sophia Rose has set up a group for 2021, the Austen Lovers TBR Challenge 2021. It's a lovely, welcoming group, but you will find your to be read list growing rather than shrinking!

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42 comments:

  1. It was something else this year, but does make me grateful, too. Love seeing your favorites and sharing a few. :) Thanks for the shoutout for Austenesque Lovers TBR. Happy New Year, Ceri!

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    1. And to you, Sophia! Happy to give a shoutout to your group, it's a lovely group to be part of. Here's to 2021!

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  2. Happy New Year!
    Bluyddyn Newydd Dda i chi.

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    1. Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i chi hefydd!

      (to the non-Welsh speakers, that means happy New Year to you too!)

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  3. Happy New Year. Thank you for sharing your favorites.

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    1. Happy New Year to you too! I toyed with the idea of not doing this post as I am behind on comments, but it's so lovely to relive my favourite reads of the year that I couldn't resist :)

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  4. Oh, Ceri! Thank you so much for including my anthology “Elizabeth: Obstinate, Headstrong Girl” in your favorites of 2020 list. I’m so proud of the work and especially glad that the short stories helped you escape for even a little bit. So honored for this acknowledgement!

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    1. You are welcome, Christina! I love your anthologies, I think the concepts give authors the room to stretch their writing legs into different areas. I hope you have some ideas lined up for this year!

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  5. Happy New Year, Ceri! Thanks for the list of your favorites!

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    1. Thanks for visiting to check them out, Shelley! I hope you have a good reading year ahead :)

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  6. I didn't read Miss Austen & The Jane Austen Society but I have enjoyed all the others. Great stories. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Sheila, I heartily recommend them both!

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  7. Happy reading...be safe...hoping for an end to the quarantine.

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    1. So much! We are under further lockdown in many parts of the UK, including mine, as there is a new variant which has developed which apparently is even more easily transmissible. So we don't have an end in sight as yet. Stay safe and stay healthy, Sheila!

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    2. And three states here have now had cases of that variant. When will it end. I am wondering if the vaccines are good to ward off that variant.

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    3. It feels like it will never end :(

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  8. Happy New Year!

    I loved The Jane Austen Society.

    denise

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    1. Happy New Year to you too, Denise. I was really swept up by that book, glad you enjoyed it too.

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  9. Happy New Year, Ceri, and thanks for supporting all us Austenesque authors.

    I really enjoyed The Jane Austen Society, too, which was one of the very few books that 2020 (sadly) let me read. Hoping also to read much more in 2021.

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    1. Me too, Mark. 2020 was a dreadful year for reading, and it's such a shame because it would have helped so much! I hope we both get to read more in 2021 :)

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  10. Apologies if I'm duplicating...my comment disappeared!
    These are all great choices, Ceri. I love hearing what bloggers enjoyed, and this year especially, after such a turbulent time. Looks like we've got another few rocky months ahead, but hopefully there's light at the end of the tunnel now. I hope you find your reading mojo again in 2021, and thank you for continuing to support the Austenesque author community in the meantime. Let's hope it's a happy New Year!

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    1. Sometimes if a comment is too good the blog eats it :)

      I have lost all mojo at the moment! But fingers crossed I will get some back soon. I hope you have good times and good reading ahead this year.

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  11. I’m so pleased that Being Mrs Darcy made your list. Thank you! I’m honoured it was included with so many amazing books.

    I know what you mean about mixed feelings regarding 2020. On the whole, it was a horrible year—so much stress and anxiety, so many missed celebrations, etc. (and it isn’t over yet). But, as the year was ending and now at the start of 2021, I am making a conscious effort to think about the good things that happened and remember that we have reasons to be optimistic that 2021 will, on the whole, be better. Take care, stay healthy, and thank you for everything you do for the JAFF community. :)

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    1. It was funny because at the time I mainly thought it was a terrible year and yet when I looked back there were definitely some really lovely positives. I want to be optimistic about 2021 but we are facing further lockdowns here in the UK so it's hard! I am sure I will rally! All the best to you for 2021, looking forward to your new release later in the year :)

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  12. I'm so happy to be included in your list - and in such brilliant company, too! Thank you, Ceri, and a happy new year! :)

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    1. It was quite exciting when I started putting the post together, because I soon realised it was a really great list! Your book is just delightful :)

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  13. Happy New Year, Ceri! I, too, found my reading (and writing) stunted and my gratitude growing by leaps and bounds. Balance in all things, I suppose :) I'm so honored that you included "1932" on your list for 2020. Thank you! Here's to 2021 - may it bring us back the things we've missed and let us keep the things we've gained during this odd, turbulent year.

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    1. That's so well-described, Karen, such a hard year, yet I found so much gratitude in really small things.

      I loved the first edition of 1932 and felt a bit nervous on reading the second edition that you might have taken some of my favourite bits out, but I was relieved to find that it was improved. So it was a definite for the list :)

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  14. Carole in Canada2 January 2021 at 22:44

    Here's to a Brighter and Better New Year, Ceri! What a great list of favourites!

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    1. To you too, Carole, I hope you have some good reads this year :)

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  15. I read most of your reviewed books, except "Sanctuary."

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    1. It's a good read, if you like moderns. I hope you enjoy the trilogy if you read them :)

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  16. I am so honored to be included on this list! I was really touched by your summary of the year—it was hard for me in SO many of the same ways. Here’s to holding onto hope in 2021!

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    1. Yes, let's stay hopeful! I really enjoyed Disenchanted, love some magic :)

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  17. I loved seeing how your favorites are so similar to my own Ceri :) I haven’t read 2 you have on your list but have read and enjoyed all the others. Many of them will be in my list tomorrow :)
    Happy New Year!
    Rita Deodato

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    1. I was about to say it was funny that the same books keep cropping up on the best of year lists, but of course, they are such good reads that we all enjoy them!

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  18. Happy New Year Ceri!
    I like your pick of 2020, it's such an interesting list. I'm glad you liked "Disenchanted" as I have it on my TBR and fantasy is a genre I enjoy a lot.
    I see you chose "Sanctuary" and everyone speaks so good of the trilogy that maybe I'll give it a try although I'm not very fond of modern versions.
    Greetings from Spain :)

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    1. Hi Teresa. I love a bit of magic, which really drew me to Disenchanted. Hope you enjoy your reading this year :)

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  19. Huge thanks, Ceri! So honoured that A Timely Elopement has made it to your list of 2020 Favourites! Congrats to all the authors and Happy New Year, everyone! Let's hope this one is a bit closer to normal :)

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    1. I really enjoyed the book, Joana. I hope you are busy writing something new for me to read this year :)

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  20. Happy New Year, Ceri. I enjoyed your list and agree with many of them, especially The Jane Austen Society. Thank you for all that you do to promote and support the Austenesque genre. I look forward to seeing what you read this year. Best, LA

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    1. Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Laurel Ann. I will bounce it right back to you, as you do so much for the genre!

      I enjoyed Austenprose's list too. I hope you have lots of good reads ahead of you this year :)

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