My Favorite Books of 2020

So I read a lot this year, like a bunch, most of which due to the early pandemic. I read 140 books this year (woohoo!). For the most part I read a lot of wonderful books that were delightfully written. However, few had the extra spark of a favorite with any emotional or potent connection.

Honorable Mentions

  • Check Please: Sticks and Scones by Ngozi Ukazu : This is the conclusion to a graphic novel series about hockey, baking, and love. It is incredibly sweet and has multiple healthy romances.
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge : I am not really one for non-fiction but I really enjoyed how this broke down argument. I stayed in each topic and was totally engrossed from the history of race discussions to the personal stories.
  • Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce : This is the 7th book in the Emerlan world by Tamora Pierce. To be truthful Tamora Pierce’s books always feel a little like home to me so it’s cheating a bit. I really liked the growth of the characters and class structure. I liked all new magic and it was a well-written kind of creepy.
  • A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos : This was one of the most unique fantasy worlds with family magic and deep blood feuds. We follow Ophelia in an arranged marriage to a distant ark, called the Pole. It’s a magical political game.
  • A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow : This is an urban fantasy that focuses on sirens and black women. Tavia is a young siren who hides who she is with the help of her best friend, Effie. When the murder of siren is again justified due to “credible fear” things begin to change for them. It is smart, scary, and powerful.

Top 10

10. The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley: This a middle grade historical fiction novel that wrecked me. Two children escape their abusive mother in the London evacuations of WWII. They find themselves staying with a woman who has closed herself completely off. It is a really hard, but beautiful story about recovery and family.

9. A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy : This is the most slept on fantasy. The magic system is intricate. The politics are ruthless. There are two princesses pitted against each other and a protagonist that is scared to survive. Please read it!

8. The Deep by Rivers Solomon: This is a book about mermaids and generational trauma. I don’t know how to describe it better. It is a must read with an incredibly unique and powerful story.

7. Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: I resisted for a while the hype of this romance. If for some reason you have missed it, this is the story of the first son of the United States and the Prince of England. I believed in Henry and Alex. I believed in their families. It is a one-sitting, heart-warming, edge-of-your-seat read.

6. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: This is possibly the most high concept book that follows two families down generations. We open with half-sisters Effia and Esi in Ghana. Effia is married off to an English colonizer who owns one of the slave ports and Esi is imprisoned and sold into the Atlantic slave trade. Each generation was so beautifully written and despite following almost 20 different characters each voice was unique and impactful.

5. The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin : Really the whole Broken Earth trilogy is stunning and grim. It is a a masterful work of storytelling and world building. It was a really satisfying conclusion. The world also expanded in a way that was astonishing but not blindsiding which I feel is a hard line to walk. Highly recommend, if you like fantasy even a little.

4. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: I cried at a work event reading this book. We follow twins which I love, in a dual timeline which I LOVE. There is so much about grief, love, and art. It is just took me in fully into the emotional rollercoaster of Noah and Jude (the twins).

3. Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi : This is written like a fairy tale. Whichwood is so darkly and whimsically atmospheric. Laylee is fated to wash the dead as the mordeshoor after her father abandoned her following her mother’s death. There is suffering, friendship, prejudice, failing, and ghosts. I think about this roughly once a week.

2. The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow: Suffragettes and witches. That’s the whole pitch. I just want to talk about this book and these sisters. We follow three sisters that have been exiled from their family home and find themselves trying to make their own way alone when they find each other again. In addition, the chemistry between the two main couples could set a person on fire.

  1. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune : I think this will end up on so many favorites list this year but truly it made my heart swell. It is a beautiful story of magic and family. A social worker is assigned to an isolated group home to determine if the children there can be trusted or will bring about the end of the world. I CANNOT oversell it!

2021 Goals and Moving Forward

I have done my yearly goals on this blog for the past several years. While for the most part I have stuck to them I think announcing goals into the void can help hold myself accountable. After this past calendar year it feels impossible to prepare for the world that is coming, like it will continue to zig and zag in every direction (murder hornets anyone?). I feel like it is impossible to plan anything, but these goals are mostly small and habit oriented.

Home Goals:

  • We moved into a new apartment this year but it has been hard to feel like home. I don’t know if this is because of the stress, due to being unable to explore the neighborhood, or because we are messy. I really want to start making more of an effort:
    • Add all pictures to the walls and more home decor
    • Start our herb garden
    • Sweep every other day

Professional Goals:

  • I am very lucky that this year I kept my job in a year of mass layoffs. I also gained a lot of responsibilities to my position and started attended networking events within the position. I still want to look for ways to find a solid career path towards figuring out what I want to do forever by:
    • Create a list of recommendations
    • Actively network in work and with our partners
    • Start taking graduate school classes

Health Goals:

  • I got weird in terms of health this year. Between stress, family issues, and lockdowns it has been hard to be, let alone feel healthy. However, I am regularly drinking water and taking vitamins and moving my body everyday. This year I hope to go one step further:
    • Eat at least one cup of vegetables everyday
    • Sleep at least 7 hours a night
    • Find an exercise that works for 1 hours a week

Book Goals:

  • Reading is basically my number one hobby. I read a lot, I read about 140 something books this past year and bought a bunch as well. I did better on diversifying my reading, as well as intentionally reading more LGBTQ+ books. I want to continue to grow and be more in this space as it is what I truly enjoy.
    • Read 120 books over the year
    • Read at least one non-fiction book every month
    • Participate and complete (1) the Around the Year book challenge on Goodreads
    • Put my money where my mouth is and have at least 1 of every 2 books I buy be authored by a person of color.

General Goals:

  • I truly love baking and want to start baking at least once a month, if not more.
  • Connect with friends more frequently
  • Go back to therapy (this could be in health but truly has more to do with follow through than anything else)

Let me know if you have any goals for the upcoming year. Happy 2021!

Top 19 Books of 2019

Wow-oh Wow! 2019 was a GREAT reading year for me! I ready 141 books and only didn’t finish one, which for me is great. For the most part I read a lot of books I truly loved and explored some new authors and genres. I read more contemporary books and actually enjoyed some mysteries (this is impressive just accept it). It was really hard to narrow it down to a tight favorite list and kind of ironically I ended up with 19 for 2019 that I just couldn’t really make a favorites list without. Let me know if you have read any of my favorite or what your favorite reads of the year were!

19. Tower of Dawn by Sarah J Maas: Honestly after Empire of Storms I was nervous, but I loved this story. I loved Chaol. I loved his growth and EVERY SINGLE PERSON on the southern continent.

18. After the Fall by E.C. Myers: So RWBY is one of my favorite shows but I loved this look into the world. It traveled to one of the regions the show had yet to explore after the falling events of season 3.  So it had a lot of freedom. Team CVFY (coffee) was great with complicated relationships and semblances that weren’t for fighting or couldn’t be used. So all the fight seasons were intense. If you love the show it is a must read and will hopefully set up seasons to come.

17. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: This is the story of a town and a girl over a year and wish. This is a beautifully written and constructed book, craft-wise perhaps one of the best I’ve ever read. However, this is probably one of the only books on this list I couldn’t read again just out of pure mental and emotional capacity.

16. Stardust by Neil Gaiman: This a wonderful fairytale for adults or really anyone. I really enjoyed this read and it gave me more excuses to watch the move. You can read about more of my thoughts here.

15. Scythe by Neal Schusterman: Once again a very hyped book and series that deserves it. This dystopian (if you didn’t know) takes place in a world where all ailments even death have been conquered but to control the population Scythes are enlisted to maintain it. It takes so many twists and in a genre that has been so explored I was so surprised. You can read my full thoughts on this post.

14. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson: This is a mystery novel that is set at a boarding school where everyone has one passion they study. Stevie wants to explore true crime, specifically the unsolved mystery that happened at Ellingham Academy in the past. There were so many mysteries, some easy and some hard. I was surprised by the twists and nerves I felt as we learned more.

13. Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo: This was a collection of fairy tales from the world of  the Grisha. It was beautiful and strange and I think about at least one of the once a week.

12. The Complete Persepolis by Marjan Satrapi: This one is pretty critically acclaimed, so I probably don’t need to sell it but it is the graphic memoir of a woman who grows up during the Iranian Revolution. Like with all memoirs I am always shocked by how much life goes on  even during revolution.

11. Daja’s Book by Tamora Pierce: Really in this slot could be any of the Circle of Magic quartet. This was my first time reading a book of Tamora Pierce’s outside Tortall. I’m happy to report that the works remain great. I really liked how this book highlighted the difference between scholar mages and natural ones, as well as the imagination and hope of this young band.

10. The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin: Honestly, this one of the most intricate and honestly intimidating fantasy books I’ve read in a long time. It is this crazy world were orogenes who have connection to the energy world that goes through seasons of apocolypse (the fifth season). They are treated terribly by everyone even though they save the world. It is disturbing, heart-wrenching, and so lovable.

9. Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow: This is a portal fantasy as peihaps implied by the title, but largely focused on one door. So many stories are happening collected along a lifetime. January grows up as a ward of Mr. Locke, a wealthy archaeologist. Her father works for him and is often traveling around the world. January is always left waiting and wanting to follow. It is a beautifully written tale, that feels eerily familiar and wondrous.

8. The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill: This book surprised me the most I think. It is about a baby girl sacrificed/rescued from a forest and the witch accidentally feeds the young infant moonlight instead of starlight, imbuing her with magic. It was such a beautiful story about community, family, the lies we tell each other and ourselves, and magic.

7. The Grace Year by Kim Liggett: This was the scariest book I read this year. It follows the along the natural succession of The Power meets The Hunger Games. In this community, for their sixteenth year girls are banished away to purge all “magic and temptation” they possess. It is a complex and scary look at the relationships between women, what allies look like, and how to survive in a society that doesn’t give you agency.

6. UnPregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan: This is the funniest book anyone has ever read about abortion. It largely about a road trip, reuniting, and the decisions we make for ourselves versus for others.

5. The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale: This was one of my first reads the year and the final book of the Princess Academy trilogy which I hold very close to my heart. It was a wonderful conclusion about the power of self-advocating and trauma, but also like middle grade.

4. Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada KellyThis is a middle grade book based on Filipino folklore. It is the story of a girl who choses herself and her mother and must brave a journey that none of completed. It is so freaking magical and darker than I had expected. It’s such a flowing read that I immediately wanted to restart the second I had turned the last page. 

3. Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard: This is one of my favorite series currently and I was so lucky to get to go to one of the tour stops for this release. It is the fourth book in a series so I can’t really do a summary. But I am constantly stunned by how much more I love each installment and the way that the witchlands continue to grow .

2. Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro: This is a hard book to explain. I guess at it’s core it is about police brutality and not feeling safe where you are supposed it. It is an incredibly moving story that wears it’s heart on every page.

1. Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly: This is a story about a stepsister who needs a wish but cannot make it until she recovers all the pieces of her heart. I truly have never read a book that the entire time I was reading it felt like it had been written for ME and that I had just been waiting for it. It went immediately to my all time favorite list. 

Goals for 2020

So 2020 is another long year. This past year was honestly pretty great. It started pretty rocky, learning how to live with my partner for the first time and just going on job interviews for months. It end up turning into a year of stability, getting into a pattern with work, the apartment, my partner. However, moving forward HeaI worry that it may turn into a year of stagnation. When things are easy it’s so easy to just not do anything. So moving forward these goals are about moving into a year of growth.

Financial Goals:

  • Put 4-5 grand into savings, I will probably have to buy a new car in the next two years.
  • Let my partner help me sign up for a credit card
  • Spend less money of things and more money on activities

Professional Goals:

  • Attend a networking event
  • Reconnect with some old political contacts
  • Take the GRE (and seriously consider grad school)

Health Goals:

  • Stretch everyday
  • Get 8 hours of sleep a night there is a no reason not to at the moment.
  • Eat a vegetable every day! (This one will be the hardest)

Personal Goals:

  • Go out of the house on dates once a month
  • Watch more movies, try to watch one a week
  • Make active time to hang out with friends like a human being.

Writing Goals:

  • Journal everyday in some form.
  • Try two different forms of drafting for my fiction writing
  • I’m sticking with my 3 posts a month for this next year.  I didn’t technically hit it but it was largely due to computer issues. (Stretch goal: once a week)

Reading Goals:

  • I am planning on committing to the Around the Year in 52 books challenge group on goodreads. There are a lot of cool prompts that should hopefully get me out of my comfort zone.
  • Finish more series
  • Feel less guilty about re-reads

What are your goals for the new year and the new decade?