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Favorite Books of 2020! (In Every Category I Could Think of!)

I’m doing my 2020 yearly wrap-up a bit differently this year! In addition to my yearly stats, (which will be in an upcoming blog post) I wanted to do a post talking about my favorites of the year in a bunch of different categories, so that I don’t leave out any great books in my yearly wrap-up. I actually tried to look for a book tag to do but couldn’t find one that really worked for me, so I just made up categories based on things I wanted to talk about. Let’s do it!

Top Ten Favorite Books of 2020:

10. The Seas by Samantha Hunt – beautifully written fabulist fiction with lots of ocean/mermaid imagery

9. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead – impactful and devastating, with a twist that absolutely gutted me

8. Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – a strange and wonderfully creative short fantastical novel

7. Melmoth by Sarah Perry – a surprising and gorgeously written favorite with shades of historical fiction and mythology

6. Passage by Connie Willis – I sobbed through the last 300 or so pages of this book, so there was no way it wouldn’t make this list

5. Kindred by Octavia Butler – another classic from the queen of science fiction that I’m so glad to have finally read

4. Possession by A.S. Byatt – impressive and complex, containing letters and poetry from fictional 19th-century writers

3. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente – the last book I read this year that also became a new favorite from an already favorite author

2. In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado – devastating and gorgeously written memoir told in so many different ways

  1. Bunny by Mona Awad (AKA my new favorite book of all time!)

 

Favorite short story collections of 2020:

What Shines from ItThe Other World, It Whispers

Both What Shines From It by Sara Rauch and The Other World, It Whispers by Stephanie Victoire were absolutely gorgeously written, and I’d happily read more collections from both authors.

Favorite contemporary romance reads of 2020:

This was really difficult, so I chose 5. To be fair, I did read a lot of contemporary romance in 2020, so there were a lot to choose from; there are still several excellent ones I had to leave off this list so that I could narrow it down a bit.

Boyfriend MaterialIf I Never Met YouGirl Gone Viral (Modern Love, #2)Beach ReadThe Worst Best Man

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall, If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane, Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai, Beach Read by Emily Henry, and The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

Favorite UF/PNR of 2020:

Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy, #5)Wolf Gone Wild (Stay A Spell #1)

Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews (the second book in a stellar fantasy romance series) and Wolf Gone Wild by Juliette Cross (PNR featuring a romance between a werewolf and a witch set in New Orleans).

Favorite historical romance of 2020:

The Governess Game (Girl Meets Duke, #2)When a Scot Ties the Knot (Castles Ever After, #3)

Tessa Dare was such a great find for me in 2020. Her funny yet emotionally impactful historical romance was really the perfect thing to start reading this spring. My favorites of hers this year were The Governess Game, which featured a really fun couple, and When a Scot Ties the Knot, which was hilarious and had a fantastic premise.

Favorite debut novels:

LusterQueenieCatherine House

I read some really great debuts in 2020, but at the top of the list were definitely Luster by Raven Leilani, Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, and Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas.

Favorite YA:

Landscape with Invisible HandCome Tumbling Down (Wayward Children, #5)The Wicker King (The Wicker King, #1)

Sort of a weird year for me in terms of YA–I think I read less YA this year than I ever have, and I didn’t necessarily find any new all-time favorites. I did, however, read two YA novellas that I thought were great (Landscape with Invisible Hand, which was impactful and hilarious and really isn’t being talked about enough, and Come Tumbling Down, the most recent entry in the Wayward Children series) and a YA novel from an author that I’m really excited to read more from (The Wicker King by K. Ancrum).

Favorite nonfiction:

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African ChildhoodIn the Dream House

Trevor Noah’s book (and its audio narration!) were FANTASTIC, and I cannot stop raving about In the Dream House, which was one of my favorites of the year.

Most disappointing reads of 2020:

Normal PeopleLittle EyesThe RegretsFollowers

These were books that, for whatever reason, I really thought I’d love and that had 5-star potential based on their authors/synopses, but that I ended up really not enjoying nearly as much as I thought I would.

Most surprising reads of 2020:

An American MarriageChosen Ones (The Chosen Ones, #1)

These 2 books were surprising to me for very different reasons–An American Marriage because I don’t normally gravitate towards literary fiction focused on marriages but ended up loving it, and Chosen Ones because it had some really crazy plot twists.

New-to-me authors I discovered in 2020 and can’t wait to read more from:

If I Never Met YouThe Austen Playbook (London Celebrities, #4)The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1)

Mhairi McFarlane, Lucy Parker, Tessa Dare: These are all romance authors that have a bunch of other books out that I’ve got my eye on to pick up in 2021. I’ll definitely be picking up at least 1 book from each of these authors this year–probably more!

Favorite covers of books I read in 2020:

The SeasCatherine HouseThe Other World, It WhispersHouse of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1)

Most-read authors of 2020:

  1. Tessa Dare (tie!) – 5 books

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1)The Governess Game (Girl Meets Duke, #2)The Wallflower Wager (Girl Meets Duke, #3)When a Scot Ties the Knot (Castles Ever After, #3)Say Yes to the Marquess (Castles Ever After, #2)

  1. Alyssa Cole – (tie!) 5 books

When No One is WatchingLet It ShineLet Us DreamOnce Ghosted, Twice Shy (Reluctant Royals, #2.5)The A.I. Who Loved Me

And then I read 2 books each from 10 other authors! I was actually really surprised by this stat. I think I just assumed that I only read one book per author, for the most part, but there were SO MANY 2-book authors. Several of these were due to re-reads, which makes more sense when I think about it.

Mona Awad:

Bunny13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

Seanan McGuire:

Middlegame (Middlegame, #1)Come Tumbling Down (Wayward Children, #5)

Ilona Andrews:

Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy, #4)Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy, #5)

Juliette Cross:

Wolf Gone Wild (Stay A Spell #1)Don't Hex and Drive (Stay a Spell #2)

Silvia Moreno-Garcia:

The Beautiful OnesMexican Gothic

Rainbow Rowell:

Carry On (Simon Snow, #1)Wayward Son (Simon Snow, #2)

Eva Chase:

Wicked Wonderland (The Looking-Glass Curse #1)Wrathful Wonderland (The Looking-Glass Curse #2)

Eva Leigh:

My Fake Rake (Union of the Rakes, #1)Would I Lie to the Duke (Union of the Rakes, #2)

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff:

Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle, #1)Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle, #2)

Sarah J. Maas:

House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1)A Court of Frost and Starlight

 

What were some of your favorite reads of 2020? Let me know in the comments!

Bout of Books TBR!

It’s a bit last minute, but I’m planning on joining in on this round of the Bout of Books readathon!

The Bout of Books readathon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It’s a weeklong readathon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 4th and runs through Sunday, January 10th in YOUR time zone. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are reading sprints, Twitter chats, and exclusive Instagram challenges, but they’re all completely optional. For all Bout of Books 30 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

I usually do kick off my reading year with Bout of Books, but I’ve been reluctant to post a TBR since I’m trying to avoid TBRs altogether in January and instead focus on mood-reading. I do, however, still really want to participate in the readathon, as it always help me be more productive with my reading to start the year off, so here are the two books I’m currently reading (and will probably read more from during the week?): From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout (fantasy romance) and Headliners by Lucy Parker (contemporary romance, audiobook).

From Blood and Ash (Blood and Ash, #1)Headliners (London Celebrities, #5)

And here are a few books that I’m sort of maybe feeling like starting soonish, but I’m definitely not committing to:

The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and StoriesA Rogue of One's Own (A League of Extraordinary Women, #2)A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)

The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans (short story collection), A Rogue of One’s Own by Evie Dunmore (historical romance), A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (fantasy romance; re-read).

 

Anyone else planning on participating in Bout of Books or any other readathons to kick off 2021? Let me know in the comments!

2021 Reading Goals

Last year, I set reading goals for myself that were intentional as well as accessible, so I’m going to try to do that in 2021 as well. Let’s get started!

Read all of the books on my Top 10 TBR for 2021/5-Star predictions list.

I tried to be thoughtful in curating this list and included books in a lot of different genres and formats; I’m hoping that the variety will help make it easier for me to stick to this stack despite my mood-reading tendencies.

Shorter backlist novels I’m intrigued by:

The Stone GodsHow the Blessed LiveAll the Birds, Singing

Short story collections:

What is Not Yours is Not YoursThe Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories

Critically acclaimed books I keep meaning to read:

Fates and FuriesThe Vanishing Half

YA:

When the Moon Was Ours

Longer books:

Black Sun (Between Earth and Sky, #1)Plain Bad Heroines

 

Read a classic or modern classic. I didn’t read any classics at all in 2020; I actually started Anna Karenina and was really enjoying it before lockdown started in my area, but then I abandoned it due to stress and a need for more comforting reads. I’d really like to read at least one classic in 2021 (and modern classics would count too!) although I’m not yet sure which one I’m gravitating towards.

Read some lesser-known or independently published books. This sort of goes along with my selections for my Top 10 TBR for the year. I do like to keep up with new releases, and to a certain degree I can also get caught up in the hype with popular books. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I also want to make sure that I’m picking up plenty of less popular or less talked-about titles as well.

Re-read the Court of Thorns and Roses series. I’m not going to lie, this is probably my favorite ongoing series. I have re-read the first three books in the past, but not for quite awhile, and with book 4 finally coming out in Feb, I’m thinking that I’ll either want to do a re-read of the series in the lead-up to the newest book’s release or after I read the newest book when I’ll likely be in a book hangover and wanting more from that world.

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)A ​Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #4)

In the past, I’ve almost felt guilty about doing re-reads when I have so many books on my TBR shelf, but in the last two years I started forcing myself to abandon the guilt and go back to enjoying re-reads the way I did when I was younger. I want to keep doing that in 2021–if I’m in the mood for a re-read, I should just do it.

 

December Reading Wrap-Up

I had a stellar reading month in December! I ended up reading a lot more than I thought I would, especially considering the fact that I felt mired in a reading slump early in the month, and read several new favorites. My reading this month ended up having several unintentional themes: I read a bunch of books with blue covers, contemporary romance with the fake dating trope, and books that were almost exactly 400 pages long.

Total books read: 9

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Audiobooks: 2

Ready Player Two by Ernest ClineBoyfriend Material by Alexis HallIf I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlaneA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth OzekiI Want To Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel BloomA Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. MaasWritten in the Stars by Alexandria BellefleurThe Austen Playbook by Lucy ParkerRadiance by Catherynne M. Valente

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente (5 stars) – Yet another incredible read from Catherynne M. Valente. All of her books are so different in genre and concepts, but all are so beautifully and intricately written and rich with metaphors. Radiance is genre-bending, but it’s sort of a fantastical alternate-history science fiction that pays homage to classic filmmaking and tells its story through an alternative format made up of journal entries, radio broadcasts, scripts and film transcriptions, and gossip columns, among other things. It’s incredible, beautiful, and an experience to read. Highly, highly recommend.

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (4.5 stars) – My favorite contemporary romance of the year! A really well-written, character-driven fake dating/enemies-to-lovers romance set in London. I listened to this on audiobook and absolutely loved the narration; the book is at times both hilarious and touching and makes you empathize so much with its main characters. I’ll definitely be picking up more from Alexis Hall in the future.

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane (4 stars) – This was a surprise addition to my list of favorite romance reads of the year. I wasn’t previously familiar with the book’s plot or with this author, but I quickly became a huge fan of the main character, Laurie, and rooted for her when her boyfriend since the age of 18 broke up with her out of the blue and upended her life. A work colleague, Jamie, at the firm where she and her ex both work proposes that they pretend to date each other both to make her ex jealous and to help Jamie advance in his career, and it develops into a very real friendship which slowly becomes something more. The main characters had great chemistry, but their friendship was very genuine and sweet as well. I can’t wait to read more from this author.

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur (4 stars) – A sweet contemporary romance set in Seattle and featuring an opposites-attract, fake dating relationship that ends up becoming very genuine and real. Elle is an astrologer and the creator of a popular social media account called Oh My Stars who begins collaborating with a dating site to help them refine their algorithm based on astrology; Darcy is the straight-laced, reserved actuary and brother of the dating site founder who’s set up with Elle on a blind date. Although their initial meeting is disastrous, Darcy proposes that the two pretend to date so that she can stop the endless stream of setups from her well-intentioned brother. I loved the nerdy elements and references scattered throughout the book, as well as the really adorable relationship that develops as Darcy and Elle get to know each other better.

I received a finished copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker (4 stars) – This was a really fun contemporary romance set in the theater world of London’s West End and centered around the production of an Austen-based murder-mystery live performance, but there’s also a real-life mystery surrounding the ancestors of the main characters. Freddy is a fun, optimistic actress who finds herself unexpectedly falling for grumpy and intimidating theater critic Griff, who falls for her right back. I loved their dynamic, the side characters, and the well-written and tightly plotted story. I’ll definitely be picking up more from Lucy Parker; this is the first book I’ve read from her, but it’s actually the fourth book in her London Celebrities series (although it can totally be read as a standalone!)

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (3.5 stars) – One of the last books on my top 10 TBR for 2020, A Tale for the Time Being ended up being a bit of a miss for me. Its dual narrative resulted in me caring far more about one main character than the other, and I felt that the story dragged a lot in parts. There were some elements that I did find really interesting, but it never quite came together as a whole for me the way that I wanted it to.

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas (re-read) (3.5 stars) – I absolutely can’t wait for A Court of Silver Flames, which comes out in Feb, and I’d realized that I’d forgotten what had happened in this novella that takes place between that book and A Court of Wings and Ruin. This is definitely not the most eventful book in the series, nor is it my favorite, but I did enjoy the re-read regardless.

I Want to Be Where the Normal People Are by Rachel Bloom (3.5 stars) – I absolutely loved Bloom’s musical show Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and two of my friends highly recommended I pick up her memoir/essay collection as well. Bloom’s writing is funny and relatable, and there’s some really great discussion about mental health, but I wouldn’t say that I loved this one.

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline (2.5 stars) – A disappointing follow-up to Cline’s enjoyable and action-packed Ready Player One. The sequel is slower-paced and the action doesn’t really start until about 1/3 of the way into the book, and it lacks the competitiveness and panache of its predecessor. It felt unnecessary and frustrating, with its references forced rather than fun.

November Reading Wrap-Up (In Which I Finally Find Some 5-Star Reads!)

After a lot of mediocre and/or disappointing reads in October, I had an AMAZING reading month in November. I finally broke free of my months-long 5-star book drought with not one, not two, but THREE 5-star reads that absolutely blew me away. (I’m very relieved, as I was honestly at the point where I was really starting to question my reading choices.) Two of those 5-star reads were also on my Top Ten TBR for 2020, and I’ve now finished 7 out of those 10 books, which is honestly better than I think I’ve ever done. (For unknown, possibly mood reading-related reasons, I’m always really terrible at sticking to my Top 10 TBR lists.)

I’m keeping the reviews short and sweet this time, since there are so many reading and blogging things happening in December, and I’m going to try not leaving everything until the very end of the year/beginning of the new year!

November stats

Number of books read: 8

Audiobooks: 3

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. KluneWatch Over Me by Nina LaCourPiranesi by Susanna ClarkeThis Will Be My Undoing by Morgan JerkinsIn the Dream HouseDash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel CohnThe Shadows Between Us by Tricia LevensellerMelmoth by Sarah Perry

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (5 stars) – Machado wrote one of my all-time favorite short story collections, Her Body and Other Parties, so I had a strong suspicion that her memoir would also blow me away, and it absolutely did. She focuses on abuse in queer relationships by telling the story of her abusive ex-girlfriend, and dissects her relationship and her concept of the Dream House in so many different and unique ways. It’s endlessly creative and fantastically written, while delivering emotional gutpunch after gutpunch. Highly, highly, highly recommend.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry (5 stars) – This book is what I like to call an unexpected 5-star read: it’s from an author I’ve never read from before, I really didn’t know much about what the book was about before I started it, and for awhile I really didn’t know where things were going with the story. But then it absolutely blew me away and crushed me emotionally, which is honestly what I want in a book. Our protagonist Helen is living in Prague wracked by guilt from a mysterious past when she stumbles on the folktale of Melmoth the Witness, who is said to haunt those who have done wrong–and particularly those who have stood silent while evil was being committed. It’s a beautifully written book that gave me goosebumps multiple times.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (5 stars) – This is a very strange book that probably won’t be for everyone; I wasn’t even completely sure of its genre until later in the story. It’s much stranger than Clarke’s more traditional historical fantasy Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, which I also loved, but just as excellent. Clarke’s writing is extremely strong, and she weaves such an interesting mystery from a fascinating world.

This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jerkins (4 stars) – I was impressed by this debut essay collection that discusses everything from pop culture to intersectional feminism within the framework of a memoir. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by the author, and would definitely recommend it.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (4 stars) – This feel-good contemporary fantasy has been raved about on every bookish platform in 2020, and as the beginning of November was quite stressful with election-related things, it was a great choice to pick up. It wasn’t a 5-star read for me, but I can definitely see why people love it–it’s such a sweet story about friendship and love and acceptance in a world where people hate you just for being born different. I definitely plan to pick up more from Klune in the future, particularly if I need a mood booster.

Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour (4 stars) – This atmospheric, lightly fabulist YA contemporary was a dreamlike surprise for me. I listened to the audiobook and would highly recommend it; we’re following a protagonist actively haunted by her past trying to find a place for herself after a traumatic childhood. This year I’ve really been finding that YA contemporary (especially with a lightly magical or fabulist element) has been working for me a lot more than YA fantasy; I’m still not sure why that is.

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (3 stars) – I loved the Netflix miniseries Dash & Lily so much that after I finished watching it, I immediately started listening to the audiobook. This is a very cute contemporary YA holiday romance, but I ended up liking the Netflix series much more than the book.

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller (3 stars) – This dark YA fantasy romance was a disappointment for me. I never really felt like I had a handle on the love interest’s personality, and the writing style seemed very young for the subject matter. I did, however, like the power-hungry female protagonist and her very interesting-sounding fashion designs.

Most Anticipated Book Releases of 2021 (Part 1)

It’s that time of year again, when the year starts to wind down, new book releases become more and more sparse, and I start to look ahead at all of the shiny new releases coming in the next year. I started compiling this list awhile ago and it has absolutely exploded since then, as I’ve heard about more and more enticing new releases coming in 2021. This is not at all an exhaustive list–it’s a very specific one consisting of all the books I’m personally excited for, and that I hope will interest you too. Like previous years, there are a lot of past favorite authors represented on this list, but there are also a bunch of new-to-me authors that I’m intrigued by. And genre-wise, we’re all over the place, which is exactly how I like it.

I’ve included links to the Goodreads pages as well as synopses for all of these so that you can see if you want to add them to your TBR as well; you can also check out my 2021 shelf on Goodreads (feel free to add me on there if you haven’t already). One more caveat–I limited the list this time to books that already have both covers and release dates, since there were already SO MANY to choose from, and there will definitely be a Part 2 list coming when I’ve accumulated enough new options. (And although I’ve organized them in order of anticipated release date, all release dates are subject to change–a TON of release dates got switched around in 2020, and I’m assuming there may be some of that in 2021 as well).

Let’s get ready for 2021!

 

Lore

Lore by Alexandra Bracken (anticipated release 1/5/21) – I’ve never read anything from this author before, but as a huge fan of Greek mythology, I’ve been searching for a mythology-related fiction book that I could really get into. I was lucky enough to be approved for this eARC via NetGalley, so my review should be up before too long. Gorgeous cover, too.

Goodreads synopsis: Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality. Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths. Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods. The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.

Blood Heir (Kate Daniels World #1; Kate Daniels #10.5)

Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews (anticipated release 1/12/21) – I don’t want to post the synopsis for this one, since it’ll probably spoil some aspect of its predecessor series (the Kate Daniels series, my all-time favorite UF/PNR). Suffice it to say that our main character this time is one of the side characters from the Kate Daniels world, and although Ilona Andrews has been self-publishing this on their blog for months now, I’ve been waiting to read it until it’s been edited and compiled into a full volume. I cannot WAIT to check in with some of my favorite characters and see what’s going on in this post-magic-apocalypse world.

Across the Green Grass Fields (Wayward Children, #6)

Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire (anticipated release 1/12/21) – I’ve loved every installment in McGuire’s Wayward children series, portal fantasy focused on teens who enter and sometimes are rejected from magical worlds, and I’m hoping that this one lives up to the rest.

Goodreads synopsis: Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late. When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to “Be Sure” before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines―a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes. But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…

A History of What Comes Next (Take Them to the Stars, #1)

A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel (anticipated release 2/2/21) – I enjoyed Neuvel’s scifi novel Sleeping Giants and loved his creative novella The Test, and I’m intrigued by this first-contact historical SF concept.

Goodreads synopsis: Over 99 identical generations, Mia’s family has shaped human history to push them to the stars, making brutal, wrenching choices and sacrificing countless lives. Her turn comes at the dawn of the age of rocketry. Her mission: to lure Wernher Von Braun away from the Nazi party and into the American rocket program, and secure the future of the space race. But Mia’s family is not the only group pushing the levers of history: an even more ruthless enemy lurks behind the scenes. A darkly satirical first contact thriller, as seen through the eyes of the women who make progress possible and the  men who are determined to stop them…

The Bride Bet (Girl Meets Duke, #4)

The Bride Bet by Tessa Dare (anticipated release 2/9/21) – I really dove into historical romance in 2020, and although I still can’t bring myself to love most of the covers, Tessa Dare was one of the writers that really got me through this rough year. This is the fourth book in her Girl Meets Duke quartet, which I’ve really been enjoying so far, and I highly recommend checking it out if you’re interested in historical romance but don’t know where to start.

Goodreads synopsis: Once upon a time, two sworn enemies – the bookish daughter of a scholar and the devilish heir to a duke – made a pact: If they were both still single in ten years, they would marry each other. It was a joke, Nicola thought. A duchess? Her? But when the Duke of Westleigh returns a decade later, he’s serious. He needs an heir, so he’s holding her to their marriage bargain—diamond ring, lavish gown, engagement ball, and more. Nothing Nicola says can dissuade him. When she calls him arrogant, he praises her honesty. When she makes social stumbles, he catches her fall. And when she gets exasperated, the duke can’t seem to get enough. For reasons she can’t fathom, he claims that no other woman will do. He’s betting he can change her mind, with logic and passion. She’s betting she can change his mind, just by being herself. And as the clock ticks down to a wedding day, neither is counting on losing their heart.

First Comes Like (Modern Love, #3)

First Comes Like by Alisha Rai (anticipated release 2/16/21) – This is the third installment in Rai’s Modern Love series, and since she’s one of my absolute favorite romance authors, this one is at the top of my TBR. Luckily, I was approved for an eARC via NetGalley, so I’ll be reading and reviewing this one soon. The main character is also one of my favorite side characters who’s appeared in several past books.

Goodreads synopsis: Beauty expert and influencer Jia Ahmed has her eye on the prize: conquering the internet today, the entire makeup industry tomorrow, and finally, finally proving herself to her big opinionated family. She has little time for love, and even less time for the men in her private messages—until the day a certain international superstar slides into her DMs, and she falls hard and fast. There’s just one wrinkle: he has no idea who she is. The son of a powerful Bollywood family, soap opera star Dev Dixit is used to drama, but a strange woman who accuses him of wooing her online, well, that’s a new one. As much as he’d like to focus on his Hollywood fresh start, he can’t get Jia out of his head. Especially once he starts to suspect who might have used his famous name to catfish her… When paparazzi blast their private business into the public eye, Dev is happy to engage in some friendly fake dating to calm the gossips and to dazzle her family. But as the whole world swoons over their relationship, Jia can’t help but wonder: Can an online romance-turned-offline-fauxmance ever become love in real life?

 

The Echo Wife

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey (anticipated release 2/16/21) – I enjoyed Gailey’s contemporary fantasy Magic for Liars, and am very curious about this scifi thriller.

Goodreads synopsis: Martine is a genetically cloned replica made from Evelyn Caldwell’s award-winning research. She’s patient and gentle and obedient. She’s everything Evelyn swore she’d never be. And she’s having an affair with Evelyn’s husband. Now, the cheating bastard is dead, and the Caldwell wives have a mess to clean up.
Good thing Evelyn Caldwell is used to getting her hands dirty.

 

A ​Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #4)

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas (release date 2/16/21) – I’m not going to lie, Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series is one of my favorite fantasy/romance series, and although I’m not the biggest fan of Nesta from previous books (I’m not the biggest fan of either of Feyre’s sisters after how they treated her), I’m still looking forward to the reappearance of other favorite characters. And who knows–maybe Maas can pull off a great redemption arc for Nesta. Anything is possible?

The Russian Cage (Gunnie Rose #3)

The Russian Cage by Charlaine Harris (anticipated release 2/23/21) – This is the third installment in Harris’s Gunnie Rose series, which is a sort of fantastical alternate universe Western featuring a tough, gunslinging protagonist. I really liked the first book An Easy Death, but was let down by its sequel; I’m hoping I enjoy this one more than I did its predecessor.

Burning Girls and Other Stories

Burning Girls and Other Stories by Veronica Schanoes (anticipated release 3/2/21) – this weird, fabulist short story collection sounds like it’s right up my alley; when Kelly Link is cited as a readalike, I generally have to pick it up.

Goodreads synopsis: When we came to America, we brought anger and socialism and hunger. We also brought our demons. In Burning Girls and Other Stories, Veronica Schanoes crosses borders and genres with stories of fierce women at the margins of society burning their way toward the center. This debut collection introduces readers to a fantasist in the vein of Karen Russell and Kelly Link, with a voice all her own. Emma Goldman—yes, that Emma Goldman—takes tea with the Baba Yaga and truths unfold inside of exquisitely crafted lies. In “Among the Thorns,” a young woman in seventeenth century Germany is intent on avenging the brutal murder of her peddler father, but discovers that vengeance may consume all that it touches. In the showstopping, awards finalist title story, “Burning Girls,” Schanoes invests the immigrant narrative with a fearsome fairytale quality that tells a story about America we may not want—but need—to hear. Dreamy, dangerous, and precise, with the weight of the very oldest tales we tell, Burning Girls and Other Stories introduces a writer pushing the boundaries of both fantasy and contemporary fiction.

Down Comes the Night

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft (anticipated release 3/2/21) – This book sounds SO GOOD. I was lucky enough to be approved for an eARC via NetGalley, and I’m anxious to get to it soon as it strikes me as a good atmospheric winter read.

Goodreads synopsis: Wren Southerland is the most talented healer in the Queen’s Guard, but her reckless actions have repeatedly put her on thin ice with her superiors. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate to cure his servant from a mysterious disease, she seizes the chance to prove herself. When she arrives at Colwick Hall, Wren realizes that nothing is what it seems. Particularly when she discovers her patient is actually Hal Cavendish, the sworn enemy of her kingdom. As the snowy mountains make it impossible to leave the estate, Wren and Hal grow closer as they uncover a sinister plot that could destroy everything they hold dear. But choosing love could doom both their kingdoms.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters, #3)

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert (anticipated release 3/9/21) – this contemporary romance is the third installment in Hibbert’s Brown Sisters series, and as I’ve really enjoyed the other two (particuarly the second book, Take a Hint, Dani Brown) I’m definitely planning to pick this one up.

Goodreads synopsis: Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right. Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.

 

Peaces

Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi (release date 4/6/21 ) – every Helen Oyeyemi book always sounds amazing to me, and this one is no exception (hint: there might be a Helen Oyeyemi book coming up on my Top 10 TBR for 2021 as well). Also, her covers are always gorgeous.

Goodreads synopsis: When Otto and Xavier Shin declare their love, an aunt gifts them a trip on a sleeper train to mark their new commitment–and to get them out of her house. Setting off with their pet mongoose, Otto and Xavier arrive at their sleepy local train station, but quickly deduce that The Lucky Day is no ordinary locomotive. Their trip on this former tea-smuggling train has been curated beyond their wildest imaginations, complete with mysterious and welcoming touches, like ingredients for their favorite breakfast. They seem to be the only people onboard, until Otto discovers a secretive woman who issues a surprising message. As further clues and questions pile up, and the trip upends everything they thought they knew, Otto and Xavier begin to see connections to their own pasts, connections that now bind them together. A spellbinding tale from a star author, Peaces is about what it means to be seen by another person–whether it’s your lover or a stranger on a train–and what happens when things you thought were firmly in the past turn out to be right beside you.

Of Women and Salt

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia (anticipated release 4/6/21) – This one sounds like a female-led, topical literary fiction book that will make waves in 2021.

Goodreads synopsis: In present-day Miami, Jeanette is battling addiction. Daughter of Carmen, a Cuban immigrant, she is determined to learn more about her family history from her reticent mother and makes the snap decision to take in the daughter of a neighbor detained by ICE. Carmen, still wrestling with the trauma of displacement, must process her difficult relationship with her own mother while trying to raise a wayward Jeanette. Steadfast in her quest for understanding, Jeanette travels to Cuba to see her grandmother and reckon with secrets from the past destined to erupt. From 19th-century cigar factories to present-day detention centers, from Cuba to Mexico, Gabriela Garcia’s Of Women and Salt is a kaleidoscopic portrait of betrayals—personal and political, self-inflicted and those done by others—that have shaped the lives of these extraordinary women. A haunting meditation on the choices of mothers, the legacy of the memories they carry, and the tenacity of women who choose to tell their stories despite those who wish to silence them, this is more than a diaspora story; it is a story of America’s most tangled, honest, human roots.

Hummingbird Salamander

Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff Vandermeer (anticipated release 4/6/21) – I’m really glad that Vandermeer’s newest is a standalone unrelated to his previous works–not because I didn’t like them (I do! I’ve given several of his books 5-star ratings) but because I’ve been struggling to continue on in the world of his previous book Borne despite how much I enjoyed it (I have yet to pick up either The Strange Bird or Dead Astronauts; both are glaring at me from my TBR shelf as I write this). I like the idea of delving into something entirely new from him.

Goodreads synopsis: Security consultant “Jane Smith” receives an envelope with a key to a storage unit that holds a taxidermied hummingbird and clues leading her to a taxidermied salamander. Silvina, the dead woman who left the note, is a reputed ecoterrorist and the daughter of an Argentine industrialist. By taking the hummingbird from the storage unit, Jane sets in motion a series of events that quickly spin beyond her control. Soon, Jane and her family are in danger, with few allies to help her make sense of the true scope of the peril. Is the only way to safety to follow in Silvina’s footsteps? Is it too late to stop? As she desperately seeks answers about why Silvina contacted her, time is running out—for her and possibly for the world.

Broken (In the Best Possible Way)

Broken (in the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson (anticipated release 4/6/21) – I’ve listened to two of Lawson’s previous memoirs/essay collections on audio, and I plan to do the same with Broken, as I find her unique voice and humor lend themselves well to audio.

Goodreads synopsis: As Jenny Lawson’s hundreds of thousands of fans know, she suffers from depression. In Broken, she explores her experimental treatment of transcranial magnetic stimulation with brutal honesty. But also with brutal humor. Jenny discusses the frustration of dealing with her insurance company in “An Open Letter to My Insurance Company,” which should be an anthem for anyone who has ever had to call their insurance company to try and get a claim covered. She tackles such timelessly debated questions as “How do dogs know they have penises?” We see how her vacuum cleaner almost set her house on fire, how she was attacked by three bears, business ideas she wants to pitch to Shark Tank, and why she can never go back to the post office. Of course, Jenny’s long-suffering husband Victor―the Ricky to Jenny’s Lucille Ball―is present throughout.

 

Malice

Malice by Heather Walter (anticipated release 4/13/21) – I will never not be a sucker for a fairy tale retelling, or for a villain protagonist. This is another one that I was lucky enough to be approved for an eARC via NetGalley, and I’m really excited to check it out.

Goodreads synopsis: Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss. You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after. Utter nonsense. Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either. Until I met her. Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse. But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world. Nonsense again. Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I— I am the villain.

Second First Impressions

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne (anticipated release 4/13/21) – Sally Thorne wrote one of my all-time favorite contemporary romances, The Hating Game, and I also enjoyed her most recent release 99 Percent Mine. I’m not actually sure how I feel about the synopsis of this one, but I trust Thorne’s writing.

Goodreads synopsis: Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.

Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too. Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.

 

People We Meet on Vacation

People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (anticipated release 5/11/21) – I really loved Henry’s Beach Read, which came out in 2020, and also her fabulist YA book A Million Junes. I’m glad that she’s writing more contemporary romance; this ones sounds like more of a friends to lovers romance (versus Beach Read, which was my preferred trope of enemies to lovers) but it still sounds great.

Goodreads synopsis: Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since. Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together—lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees. Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

 

One Last Stop

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (anticipated release 6/1/21) – I think that after the fantastic and much-beloved Red, White, and Royal Blue, everyone has been clamoring to see what McQuiston will come out with next. This sounds like a cute contemporary but with a time-travel twist, which I’m definitely on board for.

Goodreads synopsis: Cynical twenty-three-year old August doesn’t believe in much. She doesn’t believe in psychics, or easily forged friendships, or finding the kind of love they make movies about. And she certainly doesn’t believe her ragtag band of new roommates, her night shifts at a 24-hour pancake diner, or her daily subway commute full of electrical outages are going to change that.

But then, there’s Jane. Beautiful, impossible Jane. All hard edges with a soft smile and swoopy hair and saving August’s day when she needed it most. The person August looks forward to seeing on the train every day. The one who makes her forget about the cities she lived in that never seemed to fit, and her fear of what happens when she finally graduates, and even her cold-case obsessed mother who won’t quite let her go. And when August realizes her subway crush is impossible in more ways than one—namely, displaced in time from the 1970s—she thinks maybe it’s time to start believing.

 

When Night Breaks (Kingdom of Cards, #2)

When Night Breaks by Janella Angeles (anticipated release 6/8/21) – Angeles’s Where Dreams Descend left off on an intriguing cliffhanger, and I’m very interested to see where she takes the sequel; I’m hoping for more magic from badass protagonist Kallia and more dimension to the love triangle set up in the first book.

 

Darling

Darling by K. Ancrum (release date 6/22/21) – I discovered K. Ancrum’s writing this year when I picked up the fantastic The Wicker King, a YA contemporary with sort of a woven-in fantastical narrative that focused on the relationship between its two troubled protagonists, and fell in love. Again, I love a good retelling, and I find Peter Pan retellings particularly interesting because there’s so much to explore and dissect; I can’t wait to see what Ancrum does with this one.

Goodreads synopsis: On Wendy Darling’s first night in Chicago, a boy called Peter appears at her window. He’s dizzying, captivating, beautiful—so she agrees to join him for a night on the town. Wendy thinks they’re heading to a party, but instead they’re soon running in the city’s underground. She makes friends—a punk girl named Tinkerbelle and the lost boys Peter watches over. And she makes enemies—the terrifying Detective Hook, and maybe Peter himself, as his sinister secrets start coming to light. Can Wendy find the courage to survive this night—and make sure everyone else does, too?

Reign (Stormheart, #3)

Reign by Cora Carmack (anticipated release 7/6/21) – Similarly to Where Dreams Descend, a great cliffhanger was set up in the previous book Rage, and I can’t wait to see where Carmack takes this fantasy/romance trilogy. I’m hoping to see protagonist Aurora truly come into her power and see how she navigates a growing conflict on a greater scale.

 

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1)

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers (release date 7/13/21) – Becky Chambers wrote one of my all-time favorite science fiction books, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, and every time she comes out with something new it instantly goes on my TBR. I’m actually not in love with the premise of this one, but I trust her writing.

Goodreads synopsis: It’s been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools. Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again. Centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend. One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered. But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

 

A Lesson in Vengeance

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee (anticipated release 8/3/21) – this one is being recommended for fans of Wilder Girls and Ninth House, so naturally I’m 100% on board; I’ve never read from this author before so I’m very much hoping it doesn’t disappoint.

Goodreads synopsis: Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School. Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds. Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource. And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

 

The Heart Principle (The Kiss Quotient, #3)

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang (anticipated release 8/17/21) – The release date for this one was pushed back from 2020 to 2021, and I bet it will be well worth the wait. Hoang wrote one of my favorite contemporary romances, The Kiss Quotient, and since fan favorite Quan is the protagonist of this newest installment in the series, I have high hopes.

Goodreads synopsis: To most people, Quan Diep is nothing but a surly-looking, underachieving playboy. The problem is he’s not any of those things. And now that he’s the CEO of an up-and-coming retail business, he’s suddenly a “catch,” and the rich girls who never used to pay any attention to him are looking at him in a new way—especially Camilla, the girl who brushed him off many years ago. Anna Sun dislikes Quan Diep almost as much as germy bathroom door handles. Or so she tells herself. She will never admit that she has a secret crush on him, especially because he only has eyes for her charismatic and newly engaged younger sister Camilla. Over the years, Anna has worked hard to overcome her OCD, but she’ll still need to find a way to bury her anxieties and seduce Quan so he doesn’t ruin her sister’s engagement, and with it, a crucial real estate development deal. Slowly, Anna breaks down Quan’s dangerous and careless exterior while peeling off her own tough, protective shell. But when Quan discovers Anna’s true intentions, he’s forced to confront his own hurtful past and learn to forgive, while Anna must face her greatest challenge: truly opening herself up to love.

 

Under the Whispering Door

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune (anticipated release 9/24/21) – I found Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea to be a really sweet and enjoyable read, and this one sounds like it’ll be in a similar vein.

Goodreads synopsis: When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead. Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over. But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life. When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days. By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this absorbing tale of grief and hope is told with TJ Klune’s signature warmth, humor, and extraordinary empathy.

 

What books are on your radar for 2021?? Let me know if any of these made your list (or if you have any good ones that I missed!) in the comments!

End of the Year Book Tag/December TBR!

As 2020 winds down, I’ve been thinking a lot about the books I want to prioritize reading before the end of the year. Instead of a straightforward December TBR, I thought it would be more fun to combine it with the End of the Year book tag, which was created by Ariel Bissett.

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?/Do you have an autumnal book to help transition into the end of the year?

Melmoth

I’m currently about 60 pages into Melmoth by Sarah Perry, which has sort of fallish vibes and which I’ve put on pause for awhile since although I really like it I haven’t been quite in the right mood. But I’m going to make myself finish by the end of the year, since it’s on my Top 10 TBR for 2020 list.

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

Ruinsong

There are definitely fewer new book releases toward the end of the year, but I’m really intrigued by Ruinsong by Julia Ember, described as a “dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy,” which actually comes out tomorrow.

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

Written in the StarsBridgerton: The Duke and I

There are two romance books I really want to finish before the end of the year; I was lucky enough to have been sent copies of both from the publisher. Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur is a contemporary F/F romance set during the holidays, so I think it will make a great December read, and The Duke and I by Julia Quinn is a historical romance adapted into a Netflix series that comes out on December 25th, so I really want to have finished the book before I watch the show.

A Tale for the Time Being

I’m also trying to get to another book from my top 10 2020 TBR list, A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki, which has been sitting on my TBR shelf for way too long.

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favorite book of the year?

Radiance

Yes! I think that Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente is a definite contender for favorite read of 2020, considering that her novel Deathless was sort of tied for my favorite read of 2019. Last year, several of my favorite books of the year were ones I read in December, so I’m cautiously optimistic.

Have you already started making reading plans for 2021?

Yes! I started working on ideas for my top 10 2021 TBR awhile ago, because it’s a list that I always enjoy making. I’m looking to choose 10 books that are a variety of genres and encompass 2020 releases as well as some backlist titles, but of course everything depends on what I read over the next few weeks as 2020 winds down. I’ve also been putting together lists of highly anticipated 2021 new releases; one of those posts should be up within the next few weeks.

October Reading Wrap-Up

I did have several reads that I really enjoyed in October, but I also had a few that were really disappointing. In terms of quantity, it was a really excellent reading month; I tend to get excited about diving into fall-ish books this time of year and it definitely helps with my reading productivity. I also participated in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon again, which was great, and in non-reading updates, I spent a lot of this month doing textbanking for the Biden campaign.

Total books read: 10

ARCs: 1

Audiobooks: 3

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Spoiler Alert by Olivia DadeMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-GarciaRage by Bob WoodwardThe Regrets by Amy BonnaffonsGrown by Tiffany D. JacksonYou Had Me at Hola by Alexis DariaLittle Eyes by Samanta SchweblinFangs by Sarah AndersenLandscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. AndersonThe Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade (4 stars) – In the awfulness that was the first week of October, Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade managed to provide an extremely fun and relatable escape with this contemporary romance that’s well-written, authentic, and delightful. You can see my full review here; I received a free copy of Spoiler Alert from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Rage by Bob Woodward (4 stars) – this is the second of Woodward’s Trump biographies I’ve read (his previous book Fear chronicled Trump’s first year in the White House) and I continue to be impressed by his meticulous reporting and ability to combine accounts from various sources within the administration into a horrifying and fascinating account of a White House in constant turmoil. Rage is a ridiculously relevant book to be reading at this exact moment in time; its account extends to the summer of 2020, which feels impossibly current. It’s a must-read if you’re interested in politics and current events and are looking for a deeper understanding of the incompetence and danger of the Trump administration.

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson (4 stars) – A great example of one of my favorite kinds of books: books that are very short and very weird. Aliens have arrived on Earth, and instead of attacking outright, they offer what at first seems like salvation: advanced technology, in particular the ability to heal any disease. But their technology soon decimates the global economy and its consequences destroy the environment in an apt metaphor for the effects of colonization. Our protagonist is a teenage boy trying to help his family survive in this new world and also finding escapism in his art, but he finds that the only way he can make money is by feeding into the 1950s fantasy view the aliens have of humans. It’s a quick read, but it does a lot in a short time, with some excellent sarcastic humor and an eerie look at a different kind of alien invasion than we’re used to seeing.

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria (4 stars) -This was the second great contemporary romance I read in October! Like Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade, You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria features thirty-something protagonists focused on career goals, which is always something I’m on board for. Jasmine and Ashton fall for each other while playing romantic leads in a new show for a Netflix-esque streaming service, and the book features great writing, interesting friendship/family dynamics, and a really cute relationship. Would definitely recommend to anyone looking to pick up a new contemporary romance.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (3.5 stars) – This was an excellent October read. Set in 1950s Mexico, we’re following college student and socialite Noemi, whose family sends her to a remote estate in the mountains to check on her cousin Catalina, whose most recent letter hints at disturbing happenings with her English husband, his reclusive family, and their mysterious house. It’s atmospheric and moody, with a protagonist not afraid to take the initiative, and although I didn’t necessarily love the main plot twist, I did overall really enjoy the reading experience.

The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons (3.25 stars) – The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons has, in my opinion, one of the most intriguing premises, and one of the most interesting covers, of 2020, but unfortunately its execution didn’t quite work for me. I mischaracterized it somewhat when I referred to it as a book where a woman falls in love with a ghost–it sort of is, but it’s more accurate to say that it’s the story of a young man caught between this life and this afterlife on a technicality of the rules of death, who meets and falls in love with a woman while he’s living a shadow of what his former life was.

I struggled to find cohesion in this book, not just because of its shifting perspectives, but because it sets itself up to be one thing (an exploration of this specific concept of what happens when you die, and then what happens when that doesn’t go according to plan) and then becomes something else (a somewhat meta and at times clicheed doomed love story with coming-of-age elements) without fully exploring the former. I love fabulism and I’m always attracted to weird premises, but I think that either the weirdness or the love story (or both!) could have been dialed up a few notches in this one. Although interesting in concept and very readable, I wished that it had either been distilled down more or expanded into a broader scope to add more interest.

Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin (3 stars) – Unfortunately, Little Eyes ended up being one of the biggest disappointments of the year for me. I absolutely loved Schweblin’s first novel Fever Dream, which I thought was incredibly strange, haunting, concise, and impactful, and so I thought I would love her second novel as well. I didn’t rate it lower because I do think the writing was strong, but I just really did not enjoy the experience of reading it, as the book seemed to lean much more on sadness than it did strangeness or uniqueness. I think my expectations were just not aligned with what this book actually was; I went in expecting horror and weird fiction and instead got unrelenting depictions of loneliness and isolation in a tech-focused world.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin (3 stars) – a mystery/thriller that captivated me at first due to its true crime podcast premise, but lost me in the second half with a plot that wasn’t as interesting as it had seemed it would be and excessive graphic descriptions of sexual assault.

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson (3 stars) – A timely, topical YA contemporary that deals with important subjects. Unfortunately, I just didn’t love the writing style and plot structure of this one, but it has a strong message.

Fangs by Sarah Andersen (3 stars) – this graphic novel about a vampire and a werewolf falling in love was definitely cute, but it was also extremely short and didn’t feel like a complete story.

November TBR/NaNoWriMo Game Plan/Thoughts on Reading on the Eve of the Election

I really have no idea what November is going to look like, book friends. It’s the eve of the U.S. presidential election, and it’s hard to plan ahead when there’s so much uncertainty. I’ve been spending the last few weeks volunteering for the Biden campaign, and I really hope that the hard work of so many Americans is about to pay off, but it’s a very scary time here. I actually didn’t read at all over the last week for this reason, but I’m trying to get back on track with both reading and writing for November (or at least as much as I can considering everything going on).

In an ideal universe, I was planning on doing another round of NaNoWriMo this month to hopefully finish the first draft of a fantasy novel I’ve been working on for quite awhile. I set a more modest goal (25,000 words instead of 50,000) and am planning on actually starting NaNo after the election. I’d consider any writing productivity a win at this point, to be honest.

Normally, I find TBR planning helpful during NaNoWriMo, as it helps me avoid spending time and energy choosing my next read when I’m devoting a lot more time than usual to writing. I tend to gravitate towards books by previously loved authors during this month, since I also don’t want to waste my time with disappointing reads. This month, I’m leaving things a little more open-ended, and I’m currently reading several books already that may take me a decent part of the month to complete.

Currently reading:

The House in the Cerulean SeaPiranesiWatch Over Me

Going into November, my current reads are The House in the Cerulean Sea (fantasy), Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (fantasy, by the author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell), and Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour (YA contemporary, audiobook).

Other November possibilities:

In the Dream House: A MemoirThe Austen Playbook (London Celebrities, #4)

I’d really like to get to another book from my Top 10 2020 TBR list, in this case Carmen Maria Machado’s haunting memoir In the Dream House. And I sort of barely started The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker (contemporary romance) last month via ebook, then ordered the physical book after I had to return the ebook to my library.

Book Review: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Release date: 10/6/20

Genre: contemporary romance

Rating: 4 stars

In the awfulness that was the first week of October, Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade managed to provide an extremely fun and relatable escape. It’s a contemporary romance that’s well-written, authentic, and delightful. We’re following geologist April, a superfan of the book and TV series Gods of the Gates (a Game of Thrones-esque series) who spends her free time immersed in fanfiction, cosplay, and fandom culture as a whole. A Twitter encounter with Marcus, the lead actor on the TV series and a closet superfan/fanfiction author himself, leads them to a real-life date–but it turns out that they’re already close friends online, which Marcus soon realizes but April doesn’t.

First of all, I loved that both protagonists are in their 30s; as a 31-year-old, it’s sometimes hard to relate to contemporary romances featuring 22-year-olds, and I liked that both main characters are career-focused and looking to take themselves to the next level. I also related so much to April’s struggles with reconciling her professional life and her personal life when it comes to fandom. There’s discussion about how some hobbies are more socially acceptable than others, and how it’s become normalized to talk about football with your coworkers but not things like fan conventions; even though Gods of the Gates is an extremely popular show, April worries her coworkers won’t see her as serious or professional if they find out the depth of her interest. (Kind of like how, even though books are an integral part of pop culture, I didn’t talk to my coworkers about going to BookCon; it’s as though there is a perceived threshold of how much interest is socially acceptable to have about a particular topic). There’s a lot to think about there with regard to feeling comfortable in your own skin.

Spoiler Alert is a great mix of relatable life and relationship issues with larger-than-life celebrity and fandom drama, and I think there are so many people who will be able to relate to one or both protagonists. I know that some readers don’t love the romance trope of “one character knows something about the other but won’t say that they know it,” so it may bother some people that Marcus realizes that he and April have been internet friends for years but doesn’t tell her, because he’s worried about his fandom involvement affecting his acting career (especially because his commentary on the show he stars in has not been entirely positive).

Definitely recommend to readers with ties to fandom, and to career-focused thirtysomethings looking to see themselves in a fictional character and enjoy a good romance at the same time.

I received a free copy of Spoiler Alert from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.