Hi everyone! How are you all? Have you all had a good start of the year? When 2021 started I suddenly had so much motivation to start blogging again and just do everything I’ve been wanting to do and basically just fix my entire life. I know time is just a social construct and that you can start freshly every single day if you want to, but there’s just something about the new year that gives me a burst of motivation to actually do it.
Unfortunately though, our kitchen had to be renovated at the beginning of the year (it was literally falling apart lmao) so we had to stay in a vacation home for a while and being in an unfamiliar place like that makes my OCD a lot worse so I wasn’t able to do anything for the first half of the month, which frustrated me a lot. But yeah. Here I am finally using that motivation and actually blogging, and I figured I’d start off the year by wrapping up my 2020 reading year!
2020 has been one of the worst reading years for me since I started tracking it. My mental health wasn’t good this year so I just barely read, and apparently I also forgot most of what I read because I wanted to say that I barely read anything good this year until I scrolled through my reading challenge of 2020 and that just… isn’t true. I read quite a few good books and I’m really excited to tell you all about them!
The first book I read this year was immediately one of my favorites, so of course I have to start this list off by talking about The Deep by Rivers Solomon. This book was hard to read because it deals a lot with inter generational trauma, but it was incredibly well written in a way where you feel that it’s heavy and real and painful but it’s also so gripping that you can’t really put it down so you have no time to deal with exactly how heavy it is so it feels less heavy. If that makes sense. It probably doesn’t but just… all you need to know that this book is good. Like, top tier good. Like, everyone should read this and I wish I could buy a milion copies and hire a plane and just spread copies of this book everywhere good.
A new to me author that I absolutely fell in love with this year is Becky Chambers. I read the first three books in the Wayfarers series this year and it became one of my favorite series ever, and I also adored To Be Taught If Fortunate. Honestly, if I had to name my favorite book of the year, it’d probably be that one. Apparently I just love stories set in space that aren’t all about big space wars but more quiet books. Books that talk more about the character’s day to day lives. And one of my favorite things about Becky Chambers her work is the way she approaches aliens. I loved how she described them in the Wayfarers series and talked all about their cultures, eating habits, relationships, etc., and I adored the more “biological/scientific” approach she had in To Be Taught If Fortunate. I just love every single thing about Becky Chambers her books and I want to read all of them.
I also read two more books in the Ravenswood series by Talia Hibbert and I love them so, so much. There’s just something about Talia Hibbert’s writing that draws me in immediately, and something about her characters that make me fall in love with them and root for their relationship. Honestly, I’m not a big relationship person when it comes to books and I barely ever ship people (even when I read romance books I tend to read it more for the characters and side plots than the romance) but with Talia Hibbert’s books I just can’t help but ship the characters. I just love the dynamics, the flirting, the openness, the chemistry and just… everything. If you’re reading this and you’ve never read a romance book before but you want to but you don’t know where to start… start here, with this series. You’ll love it. I hope.
Let me just start off with my favorite middle grade of the year, which was Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan. This book was just… so beautiful. One of my favorite things in books is when they read like fairytales or folktales. They aren’t, but they just have this magical feel to them. Those kind of books where you want someone to read them out loud to you and you’d sit there being afraid to breathe because you don’t want anything to accidentally break the spell this book puts you in. Books that are just so beautiful they’re enchanting. And that is this book, hands down. And sadly this book is also incredibly underrated, so if you have the means to pick this book up, please, please do.
Then the award of “book that made me cry the most” goes to Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros. This book just felt like a punch in the face. Like, it was so painful but it was so good and necessary that it was completely worth it. I fell in love with every single character in this book. Honestly, not just the characters, I fell in love with every single thing about this book. And the fact that only one of my goodreads friends has read this is Bad and I am once again asking you to pick up this book. Just, pick up every book I put on this list. Thank you in advance.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Where the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin are technically rereads so I’m not sure if I’m legally allowed to put them on this list but they were definitely one of my favorite reads of this year so the list doesn’t feel complete without them. This reread has really confirmed that I adore this series so, so much and that it’s one of my favorite things and I kind of want to write a love letter to them in a separate blog post so I’m not going to say much more about them other than the fact that they’re ridiculously good.
I also want to put The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan on this list because this book is so tender and lovely and made me feel so seen. I read an ARC of this and, while my reading hasn’t been good this year and it took me quite a while to finish most of my books, I just flew through this one and highlighted so many passages of it. The way the author described the main characters anxiety and her journey to discovering she might like girls was just so beautiful and relatable and yes. I loved this book a lot.
I apparently did have a really bad reading year when it comes to young adult books because when I was scrolling through my 2020 reading challenge I could only find two young adult books I enjoyed enough to put on this list (and tbh, while I enjoyed them very much I enjoyed most of the other books on this list better…. oops) so for the formatting of this post I’m also going to add a graphic novel series I fell in love with last year here. Sue me.
So, one of the young adult books I really enjoyed in 2020 is The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow. I just love sci-fi so much, and the fact that this was one with a main character that has anxiety? YES. The main character is also demi and it made for such a beautiful romance. I remember sending my friend a very long voice message about how much I loved the romance and how much I want more romance to be like this. I also loved the writing, and I’m so excited to read more of Alechia Dow’s books in the future.
The second young adult book I enjoyed, and the only ya contemporary I liked this year which confirms the fact that I’ve kind of fallen out of love with this genre is I’ll Be the One by Lyla Lee. This book brought me so much joy and I had such a big smile on my face while I was reading it. The book is hard to read at times because it deals with fatphobia, but most of it was so joyful. I especially enjoyed the romance, and the fact that both of the characters were bi literally made me cry with joy. I know I just said I’ve kind of fallen out of love with ya contemporaries, but I want more books like this. Seriously, if there were more YA books that made me as happy as this one did I’d read a lot more of them.
Then, the graphic novel series I want to put on this list as well is The Tea Dragon Society by Kay O’Neill. Most of you have probably already seen this series around because it’s everywhere, but it deserves to be because it’s so good. It’s so magical and lovely and the illustrations…. THE ILLUSTRATIONS! They’re so gorgeous and I could stare at every single drawing for hours. I’ve read all three of the Tea Dragon books this year and absolutely adored every single one of them and I want to reread them over and over and over again. And maybe I will.
So now let’s discuss my least favorite books of the year. Three of them are just the worst books I read this year and two others are my most disappointing books of the year, and another title is a mix of both. The difference between them is quite important to me because the worst books are just books I thought were bad, and the most disappointing books are books I thought were pretty okay but super underwhelming. Books I had high expectations for that for whatever reason that just didn’t deliver. Let’s start with the worst ones.
Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes was a book I thought I was really going to enjoy. It’s a sci-fi and it sounded like it was going to be quirky in the most perfect way but I just… I couldn’t get through it. I DNF’d it at 58% because I just couldn’t get into it, didn’t care about any of the characters and the plot was all over the place. Yeah, this just wasn’t good.
Another book that just wasn’t good was Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams. The Bromance Bookclub series is a very popular romance series and I really liked the concept of men getting together to read romance books and fixing their relationships with the help of these books and each other and I quite enjoyed the first book in this series, but the second book… it was a mess. I didn’t quite realize how much I didn’t like it while I was reading it, but the more I thought about it after finishing the less I liked it. The book dealt with quite an important topic (sexual assault) and it just lacked so much nuance, and I just really didn’t like the main character and every time she did something shitty the love interest would just be like “noooo you didn’t do anything wrong you’re great” and I just. Yes. I want to stop talking about this book because I’m getting really frustrated.
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey is another book I just really didn’t enjoy this year. Everything about the book sounded so good and exciting. I mean, a western all about queer librarians sounds like a book I’m going to absolutely adore, but I didn’t like it at all. I don’t know what it is with me and Sarah Gailey but this is the second book of theirs that I just didn’t connect with at all. Maybe their writing just isn’t for me, I don’t know.
The most disappointing book of the year award has to go to Three Keys by Kelly Yang. I absolutely adored the first book in the series, Front Desk, and even stayed up late at night just to finish that book (which doesn’t happen very often for me) so I expected to absolutely adore Three Keys as well but I just… didn’t. It was enjoyable, sure, but just not amazing. One of the things that really frustrated me about this book is all of the morals and lessons it had. And like, sure, middle grade books often have these, and the ones that were included in this book were incredibly important, but when every single scene has a new moral or lesson it just… it’s too much. And it started to get on my nerves. And again, this book wasn’t bad, but I just hoped I’d enjoy it a lot more than I actually did.
Another book I was really disappointed in was Rick by Alex Gino. I have to admit that, while I liked Alex Gino’s previous books, they never really blew me away. But when I saw they were going to write about an asexual main character I thought I was really going to connect with the story and adore it but I… I didn’t. I enjoyed it, but it was just a very forgettable book and honestly? I’d probably describe it as a fine book. Not good, not bad but just… fine. And Alex Gino’s other books were like that too, on reflection, but I still enjoyed them because I didn’t have very high expectations for it. With this one I did, so I ended up not liking it as much, I think. It was a perfectly fine book, I just wish it delivered more than it did.
Then the book that’s a mix of both the “worst book” and “dissapointing book” titles is We Unleash the Merciless Storm by Tehlor Kay Mejia. I was really excited to get to this book because I really enjoyed the first book, We Set the Dark on Fire, but I don’t know whether I just waited too long to pick up the second book and didn’t care about the characters anymore because I forgot most of them or if the book was just plain bad but I could not get into it and I felt like nothing was happening. So when I found out multiple of my friends also didn’t like this book I stopped trying to force myself to continue reading this book I wasn’t enjoying in the hope it would get even a little bit better and just DNF’d it.
So yes, those were my favorite and least favorite books of the year! When it comes to the number of books I read I definitely didn’t have a good reading year, but when I’m looking at these books it wasn’t bad either. I discovered new favorite authors, like Becky Chambers, and discovered more about what kind of books I like, and which ones I might not like as much anymore. So… that’s growth, I guess? Let’s see what 2021 will bring, reading wise.