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 I Meant to Read in 2020 but Didn’t Get To.” These are all books I own, so I just looked at my nightstand and TBR cart for inspiration! I’ll be pulling from this for my future TBRs, because these were all titles I was incredibly excited to read when I got them!
The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin – I love stories about New York, and Jemisin is one of my favorite writers!
Beach Read by Emily Henry – This was all over the place this past year, and I bought it hoping to get to it sooner than I did.
Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar – This cover is so gorgeous, and I needed it on my shelves.
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron – I love fairy tale retellings, and this was on my radar long before it released and I never…. read it.
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth – All I knew about this was like “gothic” and “lesbians” and I grabbed the arc off my work’s shelf when I saw it.
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – I’ve enjoyed Bardugo’s YA titles, and I’m excited to see what she does for an adult audience!
You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria – I’ve been reading a lot of romance over the last year and a half, and anything to do with the entertainment industry immediately grabs my attention.
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko – I keep buying YA fantasy but not reading it, but this is one of the titles that caught my eye because the cover is amazing and the cover copy sounds like something I’d enjoy!
These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong – A Romeo & Juliet retelling set in 1920s Shanghai? YES. I did buy this much later than its release date, but it’s still one I wanted to try to get to before 2020 ended.
The Obsidian Tower by Melissa Caruso – This cover caught my eye, but anything with any kind of -mancer piques my interest and this is going on my spring TBR!
What did you mean to read in 2020 but haven’t gotten around to yet?
A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.
Schwab is one of my favorite writers. I love the way she uses language to create worlds, and I love the connections between characters she develops. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is one of my favorite reads of 2020, and even though it’s been a few weeks since I’ve finished reading it, I can’t stop thinking about it in both good and not so good ways. I understand some of Schwab’s reasoning about choosing not to include very overt and specific historical things due to a fear of not writing it correctly, but they were still choices. I’ll try not to spoil it too much, but be forewarned that there might be spoilers below!
Addie LaRue made a deal with the devil to escape a life she doesn’t want, and an aftereffect of the deal is that no one remembers her. Throughout her life, throughout hundreds of years, she travels the world but the parts Schwab wrote about are so obviously eurocentric and white. There is no mention of the slave trade, not even in passing, and no mention of the civil rights movements occurring throughout the last hundred and fifty years. Is it because Schwab didn’t find it comfortable to write about or include, or is Addie so self-centered that she is only concerned about her day-to-day life and influencing artists rather than seeing what she could do, however small and incremental (as she does with the artists’ lives with whom she engages), to the grander scope of society? I feel like it’s a little of both, and I just wish there was something. Addie can’t be photographed, make any kind of physical written mark or brush stroke, but she can influence people in their art?? This is the main frustration I had with the book because it paints such a soft, sanitary version of the world. I know that’s not the point of the book, but I do wish history in its terrible reality had been included more.
But to me, Addie’s plight, her desire to be herself and live as she wished resonates a lot with me on so many levels. I often feel invisible, wanting to be recognized but finding myself stopped short by some invisible force.
“I do not want to belong to someone else,” she says with sudden vehemence. The words are a door flung wide, and now the rest pour out of her. “I do not want to belong to anyone but myself. I want to be free. Free to live, and to find my own way, to love, or to be alone, but at least it is my choice, and I am so tired of not having choices, so scared of the years rushing past beneath my feet. I do not want to die as I’ve lived, which is no life at all.”
Addie lives each day being forgotten by other people until Henry, the boy from the bookshop, remembers her. Everything she has known up until that point is thrown into a topsyturvy mess, and she spends a lot of time figuring out what that means while also falling in love with Henry. Knowing Schwab’s style from books in the past, I had an inkling about where the story would go, and it lived up to all of my expectations. I loved the ending because it felt like the right choice for her. All she wanted was to be known for who she is, not for who she could be; and for Henry, there were a lot of could bes involved.
Even with my frustrations about the history included in this book, I still enjoyed it a lot. Schwab’s style has grown and evolved since I first started reading her work, and I’m looking forward to what comes next. This is a novel that is best read without knowing too much about it (and I know I probably spoiled it a lot in this review), but the day-to-day explorations and trials Addie faces as someone who can’t be remembered resonated with me a lot, and a reread of this book is likely in my near future.
A HARROWING JOURNEY INTO THE HEART OF WHITE SUPREMACY
Talia Lavin is every skinhead’s worst nightmare: a loud and unapologetic Jewish woman, acerbic, smart, and profoundly antiracist, with the investigative chops to expose the tactics and ideologies of online hatemongers. Culture Warlords is the story of how Lavin, a frequent target of extremist trolls (including those at Fox News), dove into a byzantine online culture of hate and learned the intricacies of how white supremacy proliferates online.
Within these pages, she reveals the extremists hiding in plain sight online: Incels. White nationalists. White supremacists. National Socialists. Proud Boys. Christian extremists. In order to showcase them in their natural habitat, Talia assumes a range of identities, going undercover as a blonde Nazi babe, a forlorn incel, and a violent Aryan femme fatale. Along the way, she discovers a whites-only dating site geared toward racists looking for love, a disturbing extremist YouTube channel run by a fourteen-year-old girl with over 800,000 followers, the everyday heroes of the antifascist movement, and much more.
By combining compelling stories chock-full of catfishing and gate-crashing with her own in-depth, gut-wrenching research, she also turns the lens of anti-Semitism, racism, and white power back on itself in an attempt to dismantle and decimate the online hate movement from within. Shocking, humorous, and merciless in equal measure, Culture Warlords explores some of the vilest subcultures on the Web-and shows us how we can fight back.
Talia Lavin’s Culture Warlords is a compelling, terrifying glimpse into white supremacy. This is by no means a complete examination of the many facets white supremacy reveals itself online and in our culture, but this is a good starting point and a good place to open up the conversation and personal research regarding why it feels like white supremacy has run rampantly unchecked lately.
I started reading this on the Friday after the attempted coup on January 6 because it felt like the right time to read it. I’ve always known white supremacy is deeply entwined in American history, but watching the events that unfolded last week brought it to the clearest forefront.
Lavin’s research and deep dives into white supremacist communities online and off are harrowing, brave, and gutsy. I know I don’t have the wherewithal to catfish on any level, so to me the levels she took this to are incredible. She risked so much going undercover to expose these internet communities, and I can’t even begin to imagine the emotional toll this endeavor has had on her.
One of the things I found most interesting about this is her exploration of the internet being a strikingly new tool at radicalization. It’s only in the last thirty or forty years that we as a planet have had the capabilities to share thoughts and information like this, and the more our society moves online to communicate, the more opportunities there are for unchecked, unmoderated spaces for white supremacist groups to connect.
I couldn’t put Culture Warlords down, and I finished it within a few hours of starting it. This is a necessary read, and it’s a necessary conversation opener.
Many thanks to Hachette Books for sending a complimentary review copy my way!
I have realized since creating the feature “Bookends” that I do not have the mental capacity or energy to do a post every weekend, so my monthly/yearly wrap ups have been renamed to Bookends! I’m not going to change/adjust any of my previous posts, but from here on out, my end of the month/year posts will be filed under this!
I knew I wasn’t going to finish The Big Book of Science Fiction, but I was hoping to finish A People’s History of the United States and The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem. I am making an effort in January to finish both of those (as well as The Rush’s Edge) so that I at least finish out this month with finishing up the books I read in 2020. It’s a new year, so I need a new start! But the SF one is HUGE and it is kind of fun to pick through and read stories from it every now and then. I do want to read the fantasy ones, so I need to finish this! At this point, I’m not really reading anything new as I just finished my first two books of 2021, so I think I’ll leave this as is until the January post!
📚 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%)
📓 The Rush’s Edge – Ginger Smith (17%)
I read twelve books in December! I really enjoyed the books I read this month, and I think that’s because I leaned into my whims and read what I wanted to read. I did manage two arcs and one published review copy, so I’m pleased with that! I’m trying to use my library more, and three of these were library titles too. I am pleased to be completely caught up (until February) with the ACOTAR series as I’ve had A Court of Wings and Ruin and A Court of Frost and Starlight unread on my shelves for far too long. TBH I think I was just tired of Rhys and Feyre by the middle of book three that I didn’t particularly care (or see a true need) for the novella. I am very excited about Nesta’s continuation, though! 2021 is going to be bringing changes with me, and I am ready for my own ‘tidying festival’ and letting go of a lot of things in my life, including so many of my possessions.
📚 Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, the Flesh, and LA – Eve Babitz (4.5/5 stars)
⌛️ Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies – Tara Schuster (4/5 stars)
📓 One Writer’s Beginnings – Eudora Welty (4.5/5 stars; thank you, Scribner!)
⌛️ Mortal Arts – Anna Lee Huber (4/5 stars)
📱 Ruinsong – Julia Ember (4/5 stars; thank you, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR))
📚 The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue – V.E. Schwab (5/5 stars)
📓 A Princess for Christmas – Jenny Holiday (4/5 stars)
📚 The Little Bookshop on the Seine – Rebecca Raisin (3/5 stars)
📚 The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up – Marie Kondo (4.5/5 stars)
⌛️ Spark Joy – Marie Kondo (4.5/5 stars)
📚 A Court of Frost and Starlight – Sarah J. Maas (3/5 stars)
📚 Ex-Libris: 100+ Books to Read and Reread – Michiko Kakutani (4/5 stars)
ON THE HORIZON
All of these are physical copies because I ended up buying Persephone Station with a gift card I had! I had an e-arc, but the more I read about the book, the more I wanted a physical copy for my shelves. Last year, I enjoyed Mike Chen’s A Beginning at the End, so I’m curious to see how this new one stacks up! Doors of Sleep was sent to me by Angry Robot, and I’ve been enjoying their newest titles! Laziness Does Not Exist appealed to me on several different levels, and one of my unofficial 2021 goals is to read more nonfiction of all different sorts. Everyone and their mothers is reading and rereading the Bridgerton series, and I ended up buying the whole series on Thriftbooks before the series was released on Netflix. I’m glad I did now, because it’s impossible to find! The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh sounds like something right up my alley because I always love some further explorations of Pride & Prejudice, especially some of the background characters.
📚 Persephone Station – Stina Leicht
📓 We Could Be Heroes – Mike Chen (Thank you, Mira!)
📓 Doors of Sleep – Tim Pratt (Thank you, Angry Robot!)
📓 Laziness Does Not Exist – Devon Price, Ph.D. (Thank you, Atria!)
📚 The Duke and I – Julia Quinn
📓 The Heiress: The Revelations of Anne de Bourgh – Molly Greeley (Thank you William Morrow!)
WHAT I ACQUIRED
Me, trying to be on a book buying ban: LOL
I bought too many second-hand romance and fantasy at thrift stores because romance basically got me through some tough times in 2020, but I also need to read the many books I bought last year before I really start doing this thing again… but there’s that meme floating around that book buying and book reading are two completely different hobbies… In addition to the books above in the On the Horizon section, I also bought/received the following. Some were on sale 50% at work, some (like Mrs. Dalloway and The Great Gatsby) were released in editions I collect, some were monthly picks for the store, etc, etc. I really enjoyed the e-arc I read of The Guinevere Deception, so I had to order it in hardcover to match The Camelot Betrayal!
📚 Becoming Duchess Goldblatt – Anonymous
📓 Craft in the Real World – Matthew Salesses (Thank you, Catapult!)
📚 Eva Evergreen: Semi-Magical Witch – Julia Abe
📚 Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
📚 Pretty as a Picture – Elizabeth Little
📓 Single and Forced to Mingle – Melissa Croce (Thank you, Atria!)
📚 Star Wars The High Republic: Light of the Jedi – Charles Soule
📚 The Guinevere Deception – Kiersten White
📚 The Camelot Betrayal – Kiersten White
📚 The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
📓 The Mission – David W. Brown (Thank you, Custom House!)
📚 Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor – Ally Carter
GAMING: I played Animal Crossing for a bit, but I haven’t had the mental space for a lot of video games this past month. I’ve even been sporadically logging into World of Warcraft, so I don’t have many updates there except for I think I burnt myself out leading up to Shadowlands.
TV: I still have two episodes of The Mandalorian to watch, and then I’m going to finish out Dark and start Bridgerton.
MOVIES: WW84 was disappointing, but I’m seeing it next week in theaters now that they’re open again and maybe that will change it for me..
I read 118 books in 2020, didn’t finish or even nearly complete any of my challenges, so I decided to go easier on myself in 2021. I’ll have a post coming soon with some goals I want to try to do by the end of the year, but I’m still working on figuring out what those are!