Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly discussion hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl (and formerly hosted by The Broke and the Bookish), and this week’s topic is “Favorite Books of 2020.” I thought it would be difficult to pick ten, but once I went through my Goodreads, the final choices weren’t too difficult. I did choose books released in 2020 and earlier as I read two due out in 2021 that I loved but I didn’t feel like they fit this list. I will list them at the end as bonuses! These are in no particular order!
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow – I was so engrossed in this world, and it made me want to read more portal/historical fantasies.
Sin Eater by Megan Campisi – This alternate Tudor history captivated me from the get go and almost a year later, I’m still thinking about this.
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson – Magical libraries? Yes, please. This also reminds me of like… Robin McKinley’s world building and style a little bit, and I think that’s one of the things that has kept me coming back to Rogerson’s work. I can’t wait for her next one!
Middlegame by Seanan McGuire – This was something unlike anything else I’ve really read before, and I’m intrigued by the concept of twins and their connections.
Little Weirds by Jenny Slate – I don’t know why this made me sob so much, but I related to a lot of things about Slate’s personal life that she’s revealed in this essays, and I eventually want to add a copy of this to my shelves since this was a library read!
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – I knew this would be a favorite before I even read it, and it lived up to all of my expectations!
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – I keep recommending this to people because it appeals to so many different readers. I’d been intrigued by the concept since it’s announcement, and when I got around to reading it, it just surpassed every hope I had for it. If I truly had to choose, Mexican Gothic is my second favorite read of the year.
Fable by Adrienne Young – I love YA pirate fantasy, and this was a delight for me to read. I don’t usually immediately run to request the sequel after reading, but I did for this one and I’m glad the release dates between the duology are not far apart!
Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse – My favorite book of the year, hands down.
Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey – I’ve enjoyed every book by Gailey, and this was no exception! A post-apocalyptic wild west in which librarians are spies and transport contraband on the fringes of society??? YES.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir – This was so much fun and really evoked the fun, campy, science vibes of The Martian (which I thought was lacking in Artemis). I don’t want to spoil it too much, but the characters in this are hilarious and great.
The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey – I read this a few months ago and literally think about it once a week because this domestic sci-fi thriller is just that good. Gailey can do anything and I’ll read anything they write.
In Julia Ember's dark and lush LGBTQ+ romantic fantasy Ruinsong, two young women from rival factions must work together to reunite their country, as they wrestle with their feelings for each other.
Her voice was her prison…Now it’s her weapon.
In a world where magic is sung, a powerful mage named Cadence has been forced to torture her country's disgraced nobility at her ruthless queen's bidding.
But when she is reunited with her childhood friend, a noblewoman with ties to the underground rebellion, she must finally make a choice: Take a stand to free their country from oppression, or follow in the queen’s footsteps and become a monster herself.
Ruinsong is a YA fantasy in which the voice is a central part of the magic system. I’m not familiar at all with The Phantom of the Opera, but apparently this is being marketed as a queer The Phantom of the Opera retelling. However, I wanted to read it because it’s sapphic fantasy and that cover is amazing.
Cadence is a mage who has been forced to use her voice to torture her country’s nobility at the queen’s bidding to make them compliant. When she and her family are discovered to be part of the rebellion, Remi is imprisoned and discovers that her childhood friend, Cadence, is no longer the person she remembers. Remi’s return helps Cadence find her voice (literally and figuratively) underneath the ruthless, power-hungry queen’s gaze, and they both navigate the more conservative nobility’s society compared to the more open outlook of the rebellion.
I enjoyed reading this! I don’t think the concepts of the novel were anything new or revolutionary, but it was well done for what it was and I loved the main characters a lot. The magic system is the most developed part of the world-building, but with the power of the voice being such a central theme to the story, I didn’t mind that I didn’t know much about the world in which they inhabited outside of the palace because I think I would have felt that knowing much more would have been toomuch. All I know is that I would have devoured this even more fifteen years ago, and I’m so glad that readers younger than me have the opportunity to read a fantasy book like this, with wlw, fancy dresses, high stakes, and learning how to harness one’s voice for the right thing, no matter how difficult it seems to be.
Many thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) for a review copy! All opinions are my own.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly discussion hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl (and formerly hosted by The Broke and the Bookish), and this week’s topic is “Books on My Winter TBR” and some of these have been on some form of a TBR at some point or another, and I’m going to read them by the time the winter season is over!! It’s time to stop distracting myself and get to reading what I’ve been gravitating toward.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo – I think I read this when it first came out, or likely flipped through a lot of it. It wasn’t until I watched the show again recently that I wanted to read the book again. I know a lot of people think the book by itself isn’t necessarily helpful, but the show helps cinch it all together and make it make sense. One of the phrases I’ve really liked from the show is “do you want to take this into your future,” and I get really stuck on the sentimentality of things, so that question has helped a lot. Besides, I really want to get a handle on my life before I make a move, and there’s so much stuff I don’t want to take with me into my future.
My Fake Rake by Eva Leigh – I am in such a mood for historical romance, and this fake dating one with a SCHOLAR sounds right up my alley.
Any Rogue Will Do by Bethany Bennett – This cover is just so pretty?? I just need to read it.
Culture Warlords by Talia Lavin – This was sent to me by Hachette after I requested it because it’s been on my radar since I started following Talia Lavin on Twitter a while back. It seems like an infuriating, yet important read.
Real Life by Brandon Taylor – This has been one of my most anticipated reads because Brandon Taylor is such a delight on Twitter, and I’ve heard endless good things about this.
A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday – Is it really Christmas if you don’t read a cute Christmas book? I grabbed this off the ARC shelf at work in October but decided to save it until December! It’s up next on my to-read list!
Simmer Down by Sarah Smith – This was such an impulse buy after finding out it’s a romance centering on a food truck, and it’s high time I read it!
Ex-Libris: 100 Books to Read and Reread by Michiko Kakutani – Books about books are some of my favorite books to read, and the illustrations in this are to die for.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab – I’ve been wanting to read this ever since Schwab mentioned it years ago, and to be honest I’ve already started it and it’s already drawn me in.
Persephone Station by Stina Leicht – The other day I remembered this comes out in January and it hit me that January is only a couple of weeks away. This popped up in a Netgalley email and I wanted to read it just for the cover! The description says it’s for fans of The Mandalorian and Cowboy Bebop, and those are two things I like, so this will be the next digital arc I read!
I realized I didn’t do a fall TBR, nor did I read anything off my summer TBR, and this is the moment of changes, so I’m going to be better about reading all of these.
Featuring a new introduction, this updated edition of the New York Times bestselling classic by Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winning author and one of the most revered figures in American letters is “profound and priceless as guidance for anyone who aspires to write” (Los Angeles Times).
Born in 1909 in Jackson, Mississippi, Eudora Welty shares details of her upbringing that show us how her family and her surroundings contributed to the shaping not only of her personality but of her writing as well. Everyday sights, sounds, and objects resonate with the emotions of recollection: the striking clocks, the Victrola, her orphaned father’s coverless little book saved since boyhood, the tall mountains of the West Virginia back country that became a metaphor for her mother’s sturdy independence, Eudora’s earliest box camera that suspended a moment forever and taught her that every feeling awaits a gesture.
In her vivid descriptions of growing up in the South—of the interplay between black and white, between town and countryside, between dedicated schoolteachers and the children they taught—she recreates the vanished world of her youth with the same subtlety and insight that mark her fiction, capturing “the mysterious transfiguring gift by which dream, memory, and experience become art” (Los Angeles Times Book Review).
Part memoir, part exploration of the seeds of creativity, this unique distillation of a writer’s beginnings offers a rare glimpse into the Mississippi childhood that made Eudora Welty the acclaimed and important writer she would become.
I don’t even remember requesting this from Scribner, but when it showed up on my doorstep, One Writer’s Beginnings made me feel entirely delighted. I saved it for a day off so I could dedicate the entire day to reading it, and I’m glad I took the time with it. I’ve only read one of Welty’s stories for my American Lit class in college, but this makes me want to visit everything she’s written. Her perception of the world just speaks to me on so many different levels. Welty’s description of her life in Mississippi has an undercurrent of truth to it that’s difficult to ignore and easy to be enchanted by. I was fascinated by her recollections of the 1918 pandemic and how certain things then correlated with today. It seems at times so strange that this was only one hundred years ago, and not many things are different.
What I loved the most about this memoir were Welty’s recollections of her reading life and how her reading life developed her writing life. The passages in which she says she yearned to listen to a story reminded me of my own childhood where I felt like I was hungry to just know everything about my family’s life. It’s always somewhat of a shock to discover who your parents and extended family were and are outside of the familiarity with which you grew up, that your parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents were and are people with minds of their own outside of their roles in your life, and that upon looking back you are able to pick out the narrative threads in the past that lead people to become who they are in the present. Fiction helps bring these threads together, though people are by no means mere stories in themselves.
This slim memoir is by no means short. I found myself getting lost in the recollections and explorations Welty puts forth in each of the three sections. I wanted more, but I was satisfied with what I was given; and Welty’s memoir made me consider my own history and my own relationship with words and writing.
Of course the greatest confluence of all is that which makes up the human memory — the individual human memory. My own is the treasure most dearly regarded by me, in my life and in my work as a writer. Here time, also, is subject to confluence. The memory is a living thing — it too is in transit. But during its moment, all that is remember joins and lives — the old and the young, the past and the present, the living and the dead.
As you have seen, I am a writer who came of a sheltered life. A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.
This would make a wonderful gift for a reader, and I’m so pleased to have had the chance to experience it myself.
Thank you to Scribner for sending me a complimentary copy for review! All opinions are my own.
The end of the year while working in retail in the middle of a pandemic is not the best time to try to bring back a blog and instagram with any regular frequency, but HERE I AM. I’m TRYING. And that’s all that we can do, really. I read a little bit more in November than I did in October, but I didn’t really write any posts, so I’m making up for it now.
I’m still picking at A People’s History of the United States and The Big Book of Science Fiction (because they’re stuck under a stack of books and I’m too lazy to dig them out), and I’m reading a few prose poems a week out of The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem. They make me think about writing and prose poetry’s space in it all, so I’m enjoying savoring it. I also have a problem with waiting until the last minute to read my digital library loans, so I’m working my way through the next Lady Darby mystery, Mortal Arts. Angry Robot sent me a copy of The Rush’s Edge which I’m enjoying! And Scribner’s rerelease of One Writer’s Beginnings is a perfect winter read about writing.
📚 A People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn (29%)
📚 The Big Book of Science Fiction – edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (15%)
📚 The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem: From Baudelaire to Anne Carson – edited by Jeremy Noel-Tod (8%)
⌛️ Mortal Arts – Anna Lee Huber (25%)
📓 One Writer’sBeginnings – Eudora Welty (10%)
📓 The Rush’s Edge – Ginger Smith (17%)
I read nine books in November! Most were okay, but some felt like a slog to get through. ACOWAR took the longest for me to read, and I feel like up until the 400th page or so, it was just the same cycle of action and inaction, really, that could have been condensed into a much smaller book. Wuthering Heights was one I’ve struggled with for years, and I just decided at the end of the month to read it and be done with it. The atmosphere was great, but I wasn’t expecting that level of emotional and physical violence and also why people consider it a love story. I’ve been in a nonfiction mood because I don’t really have to use my brain power to follow a linear story, and The Rise and Fall of Dinosaurs and Time Travel: A History were great science reads.
📚 Nooks & Crannies – Jessica Lawson (4/5 stars)
📚 The Breakthrough – Daphne du Maurier (3.5/5 stars)
📚 A Court of Wings and Ruin – Sarah J. Maas (3.5/5 stars)
📚 A Duke of Her Own – Eloisa James (2/5 stars)
⌛️ Flyaway – Kathleen Jennings (3/5 stars)
📚 Lady Bridget’s Diary – Maya Rodale (3/5 stars)
⌛️ The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs – Stephen Brusatte (4/5 stars)
⌛️ Time Travel: A History – James Gleick (4/5 stars)
📚 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte (3/5 stars)
ON THE HORIZON
I’m keeping this short and to the point because setting lofty TBR goals has never been one of my strong suits, but I really, really, need to read Real Life, I can’t resist rereading The Princess Diaries after seeing these new covers, and I want to start picking away at my neverending digital galley pile and Ruinsong is calling out to me the most.
📚 Real Life – Brandon Taylor
📚 The Princess Diaries – Meg Cabot
📱 Ruinsong – Julia Ember (thank you, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR))
WHAT I ACQUIRED
I am putting myself on a book buying ban from like… now until the end of 2021, because as I was sorting through my shelves this week and weeding a few titles out, I have too many unread books. I will still make a few requests here and there to publishers and check out books from the library, but I have to stop accumulating so much stuff. The first three books in Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive were on a really good deal, and I couldn’t pass them up. I’ve been holding off on starting this series, but I am also kind of in the mood for fantasy like this. Orbit Books had a great ebook sale over Black Friday weekend, so I picked up The Bone Shard Daughter, Nophek Gloss, and We Ride the Storm as they’re all books I’ve been anticipating reading! (And I also need to get back in the habit of reading things on my kindle/phone, so…) From Atria, I received Astrid Seeds All and To Love and to Loathe (I loved Waters’ debut! So I am excited for this one), and from Hachette, I received Culture Warlords. I’ve been following Talia Lavin on Twitter for a while now, and I enjoy her online presence and the work she’s done, so I’m curious to read her book now.
📚 The Way of Kings – Brandon Sanderson
📚 Words of Radiance – Brandon Sanderson
📚 Oathbringer – Brandon Sanderson
💾 The Bone Shard Daughter – Andrea Stewart
💾 Nophek Gloss – Essa Hansen
💾 We Ride the Storm – Devin Madson
📓 Astrid Sees All – Natalie Standiford (thank you, Atria Books!)
📓 Culture Warlords – Talia Lavin (thank you, Hachette Books!)
📓 To Love and to Loathe – Martha Waters (thank you, Atria Books!)
GAMING: I just hit 60 in Shadowlands on my main, and I think I’m going to give tanking a try with the new Death Knight I rolled on the Alliance side.
TV: I finished The Golden Girls, and I kind of don’t know what to watch next. I’m still keeping up with The Mandalorian, and I’m enjoying where that series is going!
MOVIES: Disney’s live-action Mulan was entertaining but it fell flat in a lot of places for me. I also rewatched Trainwreck because it’s one of those movies I watch to cheer myself up.
Life has been busy with work, adjusting to new policies and enforcing them with customers, and just carrying on with life when it’s so… weird and all up in the air. I know it won’t immediately get better in 2021, but for the first time in a long time, I have hope.