Happy New Year’s Eve everyone! I can’t believe 2020 is over now and we have a new year to look forward to. But it’s time to share my favorite books of the year! This was an interesting year of reading for me; I read a lot of debut novels, lots of DNFs and periods where reading didn’t sound fun. The pandemic definitely sucked the motivation out of reading for a while, as well as the crazy holidays but I still tried. I have a couple honorable mentions and of course, I can’t rank these since I read some amazing books this year. I’m also including some re-reads in here since I loved them so much more the second time around. Again, the favorites aren’t ranked…it’s too hard lol. Plus my reviews are linked below if you want to know more about why these books were favorites (a couple weren’t formally reviewed, so the thoughts I give here pretty much sum the book up) Let’s jump in!
These books almost made it to the list, but I tried to be a little pickier. But I still recommend these books/graphic novels. Be Not Far From Me was a short but brutal contemporary about a girl lost in the woods. Space Boy is a cute and well done graphic novel that offers a light but sweets story about a girl trying to adjust to life on Earth. Soulswift is a fantastic standalone fantasy about a girl who either has a goddess or demon inside of her. The author balances romance, religion and fantasy wonderfully. Then, Peace Talks was a great installment to the Dresden Files that prepares the readers for the vicious battle to come. All 4 of these were great, but didn’t quite make the list.
Favorite Books of 2020
12. Sadie by Courtney Summers (Re-read)
I first listened to this book in 2018 not long after it came out. I love the full cast with my whole heart, but I couldn’t stand the open ending the first time around. But I was needing something quick to listen to in the fall this year, so I grabbed this from my library’s Overdrive app. I could NOT stop listening the second time around! I found every second I could to keep listening. Even though I already knew what was going to happen, I felt even more compelled, angry, disgusted and heartbroken for Sadie and her sister. This book consumed my attention. I even got more out of this book and I have come to appreciate the open ending a lot more. Girls do go missing and some have unknown fates. But I also came to care for Sadie so much. She’s been abused and severely neglected but she never let her past get in her way. She loved her sister so much that that sisterly love made my heart hurt. Courtney Summers has written a classic YA thriller that I will never forget and I’m so happy that I loved it so much more this second time.
11. Gemina (Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Holy second book Batman! This book was intense, smart, thrilling and compelling from start to finish. I didn’t love the first book as much as other people but I had hopes for the sequel to be better and oh it was. I thought Hanna and Mik were fantastic characters and their romance was witty and well balanced. Plus I feel like the author’s improved on bringing their A game for tension, terror and uncertainty as chaos unfolds on Jump Station Heimdall. This is one the best second installments I’ve ever experienced.
10. Goddess in the Machine #1 by Lora Beth Johnson
Another YA sci-fi guys! This genre dominated my favorite books of the year lol. I knew from the synopsis of this debut novel that I had to read it early. So right before quarantine hit where I live, this ARC showed up and I was over the moon. This is genuinely one of the most creative YA sci-fi books I’ve ever read. We follow Andra, who wakes up a thousand years too late on a foreign planet. She’s worshipped as a goddess by a primitive tribe and she has no idea where she is. The boy who wakes her up, the bastard prince Zhade, has other uses for Andra as she navigates this new world. The author even created a new dialect for these primitive people to speak and that was so fascinating! See how people could speak in the far future was a great idea to make your sci-fi world distinctive and different. Plus the way the story evolved was shocking and fun the entire time. I’m SO excited for the sequel next year. This is a must read for sci-fi fans.
A Bunch of Mini Reviews #5 (House of Dragons, Goddess in the Machine and The Jewel Thief mentioned)
9. Stamped, Racism, Antiracism and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
This was the most important book I read this year. With all the terrible things that happened this year, this book helped see the side of history that isn’t taught in schools. This was more educational than ANY of the American history classes I’ve taken. This book makes me enraged that kids aren’t taught this side of history! But nonetheless, I’m thankful that the authors created a YA version of Kendi’s award winning nonfiction book. They approach the history of racism in sections that are concise and dissecting where ideas came from and how they were implemented. Now I want to read the full version of Kendi’s works and I hope to use what I learned from this book in my thoughts and actions. If you haven’t read this yet, please do.
8. The Vanishing Deep by Astrid Scholte
I have a bit of sentiment towards this book. I got to meet this author a book event RIGHT before everything with COVID happened, so I’m glad I got to meet her and get my copy signed before the pandemic changed things. Plus it was one of the first books I read this year where I knew from the first chapter that I would love it. This is set in a world where the majority of the world is covered by water and people can pay a steep price to bring a loved one back to life for 24 hours. Tempe revives her sister Elysea because Elysea knows what happens to their parents. This is a sci-fi mystery with a deep sister bond at its core. Astrid Scholte creates a genius world that is terrifying and also fascinating. I loved the scenes of Tempe diving into the ruins below water of malls and shops, seeing the remnants of the old life underwater. Plus, the concept of the organization that revives people was also well thought out and both cool and creepy. And while I don’t have a sister, Tempe and Elysea’s bond was genuine and emotional that it was executed flawlessly. This is a book that I really want to re-read again and I eagerly await Scholte’s next book.
7. Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo by Zora Neale Hurston with Deborah G. Plant
This was originally written in 1927 and was ONLY released a couple years ago! This is an account of Cudjo Lewis, a man who was believed to be the last survivor or the Clotilda, an illegal slave ship. Hurston found Lewis and interviewed him about his life, since he still remembered his life in Africa. Hurston also wrote down Lewis’s dialogue in his genuine dialect which was fascinating. Robin Miles narrates this short book and I engrossed in Cudjo’s story. While there were a few sentences here and there that I couldn’t understand 100%, Lewis tells his story with brutal honesty of his captivity, life in Africa and the trials throughout his life in Africa. After finishing this book, I looked up as many YouTube videos I could find about him, Africatown which he helped settle and the ship Clotilda (it’s remains were found a few years back). I think this book should be required reading for high school and college courses to read about this man’s story. I want to read a physical copy in the future and dive deeper into this compelling story. I still think about this book after finishing it.
6. House of Dragons #1 by Jessica Cluess
I read this book from the library right after its release during the summer. I really loved the author’s first book a few years back and since it was a dragon book, I was excited to read something different from her. We follow 5 characters who enter into a competition with their respective dragons to see who will become emperor/empress. Some of these characters are not the chosen candidates for this competition as well. Each character has their own distinct voice and even each dragon has their own personality that the author handled beautifully. Plus, there’s a dragon named Dog who was clearly my favorite. But I loved how Cluess does not make things easy for these characters. The genuinely struggle, feel clueless and even lose horribly in different situations. The lore of the world and the darker plot coming in the sequel was also well teased. I also think Hyperia is one of the most fascinating female characters I’ve read in a long time. Cluess really outdid herself with this book and this really is a dragon book. I CANNOT wait to see how the next book finishes out the series. Such a great standout book!
5. Crownchasers #1 by Rebecca Coffindaffer
YES!! This is such a snarky, fun and fresh YA sci-fi book that I love with my whole heart! This came out this fall and it’s another debut novel that blew my socks off. We follow Alyssa Farshot, whose uncle (the Emperor) is deathly ill. He announces a Crownchase, where a group of people must scour the galaxy for a small object and if they find this object, they win the throne. While Alyssa doesn’t want to succeed her uncle, she enters the Crownchase with other members of the prime families. Now this book felt like Star Wars to me with its sense of adventure, diverse planets and aliens and all the snark along the way. I loved Alyssa from the first chapter and her copilot Hell Monkey was also great. This is how you do the “idiots to lovers” people! Plus this book pulls a few emotional punches that caught me off guard. Rebecca Coffindaffer offers a thrilling debut that I still think about and I NEED the sequel.
4. The Way of the House Husband by Kousuke Oono (series)
I heard three of my co-workers talk about this manga series, so I had to grab the first one. I’ve read 3 of the 4 volumes that have been released in English and MAN they’re hilarious! We follow a man who was the feared “Immortal Dragon” in the yakuza. Now, he’s put that life behind him and he’s a house husband while his wife works. We gets slice of life moments in this manga series and it’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time. He takes things so seriously, from cooking to house work and he can appear really scary, which makes it even funnier. The humor is always on point and never feels boring. Even some old enemies try to come after him and laugh out loud hijinks ensue. If you need a good laugh, this manga series is perfect for that.
3. Aurora Burning (Aurora Cycle #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
These two are utter jerks lol! This sequel was explosive and still hurts when I think about it. We continue to follow Tyler and his crew from the events of the first book. We learn a lot more about Aurora’s powers, the alien Raham (sorry if misspelled) and other hijinks ensue. I love the humor weaved into this book; it’s a great contrast to how dark this series really is. I know the humor doesn’t work for some people but I loved it. Plus that ending is just utterly rude and I’m still dying for more info on book 3. Another stellar second book in a trilogy!
2. The Truth Project by Dante Medema
I read this book back in June and I consumed it in one day! This follows Cordelia, a senior in high school whose school project has her take a DNA test. Then, she finds out the product of an affair and it shatters the world she’s known. With the help of her best friends, she sets out to find out the truth about her family and herself. This is written in verse, so it’s a quick but emotional and beautiful read! I cared for Cordelia so much as she struggles with this harsh truth and the consequences that come along with it. This book shows the love of family, especially a father’s love for his daughter. Family relationships can be messy and can hurt, but this book shows the beauty of family as well. This is such a gem of a book that more people need to read!
1. Rebel Spy by Veronica Rossi
So this book was not on my initial radar until I saw it on NetGalley. I saw the cover, read the synopsis and downloaded it immediately. This is a re-imagining of who the famed Agent 355 could’ve been. If you’re not familiar with Agent 355, she is an unidentified female who was a spy for George Washington during the American Revolution. “355” was the code for “lady”, so historian know that she was a woman with enough social standing that she was able to be around important people to spy on. So Veronica Rossi introduces us to Frannie Trasker. Frannie is a shipwreck diver on Grand Bahama Island and when a girl’s body washes up on shore, both girls look similar enough that Frannie takes on this girl’s identity and escapes her terrible life. When she arrives in America, the country is at war with the British and she will come to be a spy and become a hero. I utterly love this book so much! Every time I opened up my Kindle, I was transported back to 1776 and I cared for Frannie so much. Rossi takes the time to establish Frannie and you care about her as she finds both freedom and also fights to keep it. This is a transporting historical fiction centered around a fascinating piece of history. THIS book is for lovers of historical fiction! Rossi has created a wonderful book and it’s one of THE BEST books of this year 🙂
There we are! These were the best books I read/listened to this year with a few honorable mentions. While I wish I did read more, these books did make me smile, laugh, nearly cry and also feel enraged about how mean authors can be lol. What are your favorite books of the year? Are any of these on your favorites list?