My Favourite Reads of 2020 (So Far)

Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a few years now (you poor souls) will know that I like to do a mid year check-in of sorts with regards to my favourite reads. The main reason being that it’s always fun to compare the halfway year list to the final top ten books at the end of the year – what’s come out on top, what’s been bumped off by something I enjoyed more, and so on. To keep things fair, re-reads are excluded because how boring would that be?

Now, by this time last year I’d read 39 books which was a decent number to pick a top 10 from. In 2020, so far, I’ve read…err..well…27 books. Yes, I know. But hey, I did say at the beginning of the year I was going to take things at my own pace. So no complaints. However, with a lower number of books to select from, instead of doing a top 10 this year I’ll be doing a top 6 for my mid-year post.

Here they are, in no particular order:

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara | Review

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If you’ve read my review for this book, you won’t be surprised to see A Little Life on this list. I loved this novel, which is such a strange word to use considering how difficult the content is and the fact that it broke my heart into a million pieces then drove a steamroller over them. The book follows a group of four university friends who move to NYC together and showcases the highs and lows of their lives over several decades. The writing is stunning and the characters are beautifully crafted. Although it’s a long book and has a couple of issues, it’s definitely worth the time investment and boxes of tissues you’ll go through in the last hundred or so pages.


Starsight – Brandon Sanderson | Review

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Skyward was my favourite read of 2019 so the fact that I enjoyed Starsight as much as I did was an enormous relief. It’s quite a different story from the first book in terms of the narrative direction, pacing and characters but still super engaging. Sanderson massively expanded his universe in this book which would ordinarily be a bit of a worry for me, but here it was done in such an interesting and logical way. I also really appreciated the growth and development of Spensa, the MC, in this book and I’m really excited to see how this continues. These books are quickly becoming one of my favourite series. I’m just ridiculously mad that I have to wait over a year for book 3, especially after THAT ending.


Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin | Review

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I’ve praised Wolf by Wolf repeatedly since I read it back in March (only because it’s so good!), so the fact that it’s showing up on this list isn’t a shock to anyone. I love competition narratives, historical fiction, fantasy, strong heroines, romance that doesn’t completely take over, and tragic backstories, so this book has pretty much everything I could possibly want. Set in a world in which the Axis won WWII, the book deals with an epic motorcycle race which our shapeshifting lead, Yael, enters in the hope of getting close enough to Adolf Hitler to assassinate him. The pacing is good, the story engaging, the characters likeable, and it ends on a twist that definitely makes me keen for book 2.


The Dutch House – Ann Patchett

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I would never have expected to enjoy this book as much as I did. Like A Little Life, The Dutch House is set over a period of several years and more about characters than plot. It’s a slower, quieter read which unfolds very much like a modern fairytale (wicked stepmother included). The book revolves around the relationship between a brother and sister and their connection with their childhood home, the titled Dutch House. It’s very well-written, with some of my favourite scenes consisting of Maeve and Danny simply sitting and talking with one another. Also, having listened to the audiobook, I can definitely vouch for the narration of the wonderful Tom Hanks.


The Diviners – Libba Bray

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I’m really mad that I put off reading this for so long because it was such an enjoyable read! The Diviners is so different from a lot of the other young adult books I’ve read which was super refreshing. The 1920s setting is wonderfully vivid, full of life and easily one of my favourite parts of the book. However, it also has a dark and engaging story and a diverse group of characters that are layered, rich and likeable. Also, my magic/special ability loving little heart was very much in her element with this one. I definitely see why this is such a popular series and I predict I’ll be giving the sequel a go some time in the next few months.


Becoming – Michelle Obama

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This is another book I read early in 2020 and have mentioned my love for several times since. Becoming is a fantastic autobiography (I say with my very limited experience of biography reads). I really enjoyed learning about Michelle’s life all the way from her childhood on the second floor of her great-aunt’s house in Chicago to her time as FLOTUS in The White House. In retelling her journey, Michelle touches on so many valuable topics and she does it with such grace and engagement. This is a book I honestly think everyone would take something away from. Even if you’re not a massive fan of Michelle Obama, I would have no hesitation in recommending it.


What are some of your favourite reads of 2020 so far? I hope that while the events of the year have been downright awful, your reading has been the complete opposite. Here’s to many more amazing books in the next six months!

And That’s A Wrap: Jan and Feb 2020 Edition

Just like that, the first two months of 2020 are over. It feels as though it’s gone fairly quickly even though I’ve done basically nothing except work, read, blog and watch TV. Exciting stuff, I know. So far I’m really enjoying this more laid back approach to my yearly reading goal. There’s been a lot less stress and I’ve managed to tackle a few bigger books. There are also so many books that I’m super excited to read and re-read in the coming months which is such a great feeling. But let’s get to recap, shall we?

JANUARY

The Whisper Man – Alex North ★★★.5 | Review

A solid start to the year. The Whisper Man was an enjoyable read and well written. The characters were developed and realistic, and despite a few lulls in momentum, the story was engaging. As far as crime or thriller novels go, it was a decent book but where the novel really excels is its focus on grief and father-son relationships. The potential paranormal element was also a nice surprise.

Skyward – Brandon Sanderson ★★★★★ | Review

A re-read before tackling Starsight. Skyward was my favourite read of 2019 and after a second go around, I’m still 100% sure it was the right decision. I love this book – the characters, story, action, world building, humour and writing. It’s just fantastic all around.

Starsight – Brandon Sanderson ★★★★.5 | Review

I was nervous going into this but, in the end, I shouldn’t have been because Starsight was a great sequel. It was certainly different to Skyward in terms of its approach to plot, sense of momentum and themes, but still good different. I did miss some of the characters from book one but I loved seeing Sanderson’s universe expand in an exciting way and seeing our lead, Spensa, continue to grow.

Loveboat, Taipei – Abigail Hin Wen ★★★.5 | Review

Summer camp in Taipei! I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. While it’s pretty predictable, has too many side characters and tries to cover more heavier themes than it should, it’s still a good read. Loveboat does well where it looks at ideas of belonging, family and identity, and I really sympathised with the MC, Ever, and her classmates’ difficulties. The setting is a lot of fun and I picked up quite a few new bits of info about Taiwan. Also, yes, there is a love triangle but as both sides of it were likeable, it didn’t bother me much.

FEBRUARY

Becoming – Michelle Obama ★★★★★

I went with the audiobook on this one and I’m so glad I did. Listening to Michelle tell her own story, all the way from childhood through to leaving The White House, was both engaging and inspiring. I learnt a lot from this autobiography and in it Michelle discusses a wide range of things including politics, family, parenting, relationships, growing up working class, and the experiences of African Americans. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara ★★★★★ | Review

I did not see this book coming. I decided to read it on a whim and it ended up being the most surprising and emotional reading experience I’ve had in a long time. The writing was gorgeous and the characters just felt so real to me. It’s a long read and deals with some extremely tough subject matters (e.g. child sexual abuse, suicide, domestic violence, etc.) but despite the few issues I had, I honestly loved this book. It broke my heart and I cried. Hard.

10 Blind dates – Ashley Elston ★★★

This was a sweet, rom-com-esque holiday read. It’s nothing particularly memorable and unlikely to bump your favourite YA romance reads off their thrones, but it’s fun. 10 Blind Dates is exactly what it claims to be – a girl being set up on a bunch of blind dates with different guys to help get her mind off a break up. Plus, there’s a happy ending. I liked Sophie as a heroine and really loved her crazy, enormous, Sicilian family, which is really the heart of this book. If you’re after something light and cute (which I needed after A Little Life), this is a good choice.

The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell ★★ | Review to Come

For the majority of its run, I found The Family Upstairs a decent read. Even with the cult, child abuse, and mysterious deaths, it somehow gives off this weirdly laid back vibe which makes it very readable. I think it may be the writing. I liked the concurrent past and present timelines and although the twists in the story aren’t particularly shocking, I was okay with them. This would have been a 3 star read if not for the ending, which felt flat, weird and lazy, and my realisation that almost an entire plotline could have been removed without damaging the story at all.

To avoid you guys having to see the same book covers over and over again, I’m only going to include the books that I bought over the last two months and still have yet to read. Plus, it makes me look so much better spending wise. Also, although Crescent City was purchased this month, because it’s a pre-order, I won’t get it till after release day on March 3rd.

Just in case you missed them and there was something that would have interested you, here are my posts from Jan & Feb (excluding the book reviews which are linked above).

Life

As I mentioned earlier, life for me has been largely uneventful for the last two months. However, as I’m sure you’ve heard, I can’t say the same for my country. This summer has brought absolutely terrible bushfires, devastating floods, an extension of our longest and worst drought in history, and now a cyclone. Australia has always been a land of extreme weather, but this year’s has been far more extreme than ever before. I am extremely lucky to live in a city area where the impacts of things like this aren’t as prevalent but so many others haven’t been so fortunate. It’s absolutely heartbreaking to watch the news everyday for months on end and see images of people crying over the ruins of burned down homes, wildlife injured, killed or without habitats, and farmers desperately praying for rain in regions that look like dusty wastelands with the remaining livestock almost skeletal in appearance. The photos below come from near my grandpa’s farm in an area of regional NSW where fire destroyed more than 21,500 hectares of forest in just one day. I hope that things will get better soon because honestly, anything has to be better than this.

TV & Movies

On to something less serious. Here are some of the TV and Movies that have been occupying my time over the last few months. There’s a weird mix. There was the amazing (Sex Education S2, Unbelievable), good (Ready or Not, The Little Drummer Girl, Little Women), terrible yet addictive (The Circle), disappointing (P.S. I Still Love You, Titans S2) and just not my thing (Midsommar, Marriage Story). And yes, I may have fallen in love with Florence Pugh just a little bit.


And that’s a wrap on January and February 2020! I hope you’ve had a good start to the year and that there are plenty of fabulous books on the horizon for you.

The Cliché Book Tag

I’m always on the look out for fun book tags to pass the time with and this one recently caught my eye. I tried to backtrack through all the tagging to find the original creator but unfortunately reached a bit of a dead end with a deactivated blog. *sigh* Still, let’s tackle some terrible (yet, fabulous) cliches.

Actions Speak Louder than Words: A Book that Wasn’t or Couldn’t be Better than the Movie

The Lord of the Rings Series – J. R. R. Tolkien

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I know, according to Tolkien fans, there’s probably a special place in book hell reserved especially for me purely for having this opinion. But to that I say: worth it. I gave The Lord of the Rings book series a red hot go, I really did, but I couldn’t make it past The Two Towers. SO. MUCH. UNNECESSARY. INFORMATION. I was drowning in it. Add in a smug writing style and not enough attention devoted to the actual story & its big dramatic moments, and I’m out. On the other hand, the movies are some of my favourite films – the scenery, music, costumes, humour, amazing battle sequences, wonderful characters – AH, I love them. Amazing.


The Grass Is Always Greener On The Other Side: A Rags to Riches or Riches to Rags Story

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Evelyn Hugo is easily one of my favourite books and one of the reasons I enjoy it so much is Evelyn herself. Evelyn comes from a Cuban immigrant family with very little to their names and wants nothing more than to get out of Hell’s Kitchen, away from her alcoholic father and his heavy hand, and to make it to Hollywood. At fifteen, she marries, moves to California and slowly starts to work her way towards becoming one of the country’s most famous actresses. Wealth, fame, notoriety – it’s not an easy road and she has to sacrifice a lot of herself to get there, but get there she does and with plenty of cash to spend.


The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree: A Parent-Child Relationship you Love

Anne & Matthew (Anne of Green Gables – L. M. Montgomery)

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While Matthew and Anne aren’t blood related, their relationship is 100% that of father and daughter. Where Anne is a massive chatterbox, Matthew is quiet and more than happy to sit and listen to her prattle on for hours. She makes him laugh and he’s there when she needs some encouragement. Every time I think of their relationship, I’m reminded of two things, 1) him going out to buy Anne a dress with puffed sleeves, knowing it was the one thing she wanted more than anything, and 2) shortly before he died, him calling Anne his girl, who he was proud of. *cries*


You Can’t Judge a Book by its Cover: A Great Book that Needs a Better Cover

This Savage Song – V. E. Schwab

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I really enjoyed The Monsters of Verity duology but goodness me, the UK/Aus covers for these books were lazy and boring. The font looks like it could be chilling on the front of a copy of Twilight while the graphic design elements aren’t doing anything for anyone. I mean, at least the sequel tried to incorporate a violin but this rose seems really out of place. Every time I look at the US covers for this series I think about what could have been and wish I’d taken the time to order them from Book Depository. Re-cover these, stat!


You Can’t Please Everyone: A Book You Hate That Everyone Loves

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin

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I don’t know if the problem is that I read Mara Dyer too long after books of its type were popular or whether it’s just me. Still, either way, I really don’t get how this ended up with a 4.06 average star rating on Goodreads. It’s full of tropes & cliches – the bitchy mean girl, the comic relief bestie, the bad boy love interest. *sigh* The thing that frustrates me the most is that the author starts out by trying to hook the reader using a paranormal mystery plotline but in reality it’s just a romance and an unhealthy, eye-roll worthy one at that. Also, the slut shaming in this book – not cool.


What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger: A Book That Made You A Better Person For Having Read It

Becoming – Michelle Obama

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I’m slightly cheating here as I’m not finished this yet but eh. Michelle Obama is an elegant, intelligent, kind and inspiring woman, but at the same time she’s wonderfully relatable in so many ways. So far, her biography has already taught me a lot about life, relationships, motherhood, loss, the experiences of African Americans, and growing up working class in the US. She shares many pieces of advice/wisdom that I think people could benefit from – some I wish I had heard earlier, and others I’m glad to have before they become relevant. I honestly believe I’ll be a better person for having read this.


Love Is Blind: A Book With A Disabled Character Or Actual Blind Love

100 Days of Sunlight – Abbie Emmons

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It’s pretty sad that when trying to think of an answer for this prompt, only four books came to mind. It might just be my limited reading range but somehow I don’t feel like that’s the case. 100 days of Sunlight actually fits both parts of this prompt as the two lead characters are Tessa, a girl with temporary blindness, and Weston, an amputee. The story revolves around Weston assisting Tessa with producing content for her poetry blog during her period of vision impairment and helping her to experience the world despite her disability. As you would expect of a fluffy YA contemporary, the two eventually fall in love.


Ignorance Is Bliss: A Book That’s Bad But You Just Don’t Want To Admit It

The Selection – Kiera Cass

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I know the prompt says to select a book you don’t want to admit is bad, but I have repeatedly said that I realise how dodgy The Selection series is. The thing is, I just don’t care. I binge read this series like a kid shoveling in Halloween candy. The story is tropey (hello there, love triangle), the world building is as weak as anything, the lead character can be a whingey pain in the butt and the story is kind of a feminist’s nightmare, but I DO NOT CARE. It’s the reality TV of YA fiction. Loveably trashy.


There’s No Time Like The Present: Your Favorite Contemporary Book

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

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I hate questions involving the word ‘favourite’. They’re just downright cruel because I have a long list of favourites, thank you very much! The Time Traveler’s Wife has been a favourite of mine for years now. I received it as a gift from my mum and fell instantly in love. While it does involve time travel, its main story is grounded in the present. The ending has made me cry on more than one occasion. I will say though, the last time I read it was about 7 years ago so who knows whether it’d still remain a favourite. Guess I’ll add it to the enormous list of books I want to re-read but don’t have the time to.


Better Safe Than Sorry: A Book You Don’t Want To Read In Case It’s Bad

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive 1#) – Brandon Sanderson

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Ask an avid fantasy reader about their favourite series and I guarantee you they’ll mention The Stormlight Archive. The love for this series is insane. If I order my to-read shelf by average rating, The Way of Kings is no.2 on 4.65! So, I have to question, how can anything with that much hype possibly live up to it? According to reviews I’ve seen, the book has a bunch of different characters to follow, involves a heavy amount of world building and takes a good while for the story to get going. For these reasons I’m really concerned that won’t enjoy it. And yet, it’s still on my to-read shelf after all this time. So maybe, just maybe I’ll eventually take the plunge.


That’s it! We’re done. I had fun with this tag. While cliches certainly make you want to roll your eyes, they’re also kind of fun to play around with. What’s your favourite cliche?