It’s that time of year – one of my favourite times of year – the time where everybody announces their favourite reads of the past twelve months! I for one love seeing everybody’s choices and finding new recommendations, and after a bit of a rubbish year, it’s always nice to see some positivity! If you’re already in 2021, Happy New Year! I hope it is a happy, safe and successful year for you all! If like me, you’ve still got a few hours to go, Happy New Year when it comes! I wish all of the above for you in 2021 too!
Twenty-twenty has been an interesting year for us all – for me, graduating into a pandemic was not the best (goodbye hopes for a graduate job!) but it did give me plenty of time to read, which lead to me reading the most that I ever have in the space of a year! It was also the year I started book blogging! I love statistics on my wrap up posts so I thought I’d do a quick round up for the whole year too! As of 9pm on the 31st of December, I have read a grand total of 155 books this year which is honestly ridiculous! The most I’ve ever read in a year before has been 100, and even that’s been a stretch, so at least one good thing came out of the pandemic! Despite previously having been an out and out fantasy lover, this year I’ve mostly read contemporary or romance novels, which I’ve noticed a trend of during lockdown among other people too! I read 82 books off my physical TBR and a whopping 53 ARCs, and 134 of the books I read had queer main characters! Unfortunately I slacked on reading books by authors of colour – I only read 47 – but I’m going to make sure I read many more than that next year (more info on that will be in my January TBR!).
As for my top 10 books of the year, these weren’t necessarily released in 2020, but I read them for the first time this year. They also aren’t in any specific order – just the order in which they came to mind! I wanted a nice round number that wouldn’t make this post too long so I chose 10 but with some honourable mentions that, had it been a top 15, would definitely have made it into this post!
I started the year off on a high note with The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang being my first book of the year, and definitely one of the most memorable! The Poppy War follows Rin who is desperate to leave her life in a small village with foster parents who don’t love her and an arranged marriage on the way, behind. So, she sits the Keju, a nation-wide exam to get into one of the country’s military schools. Rin aces the exam and gets into the most prestigious school – Sinegard – but war is on the country’s doorstep and soon Rin has to step up to save her people. So far I’ve read books one and two of this trilogy (I’m terrified of reading The Burning God) and absolutely adored both of them – the second book had me sobbing uncontrollably at the end (which resulted in me sending a video of myself, tears and snot everywhere, to my girlfriend telling her she needs to read it and also explaining the jaw-dropping scene which was the dumpling scene in the second book!). I cannot recommend this series enough, it’s one that I’m going to revisit year after year and I can’t wait to see what R.F. Kuang releases next!
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta was a book I devoured in an afternoon sitting outside in the Summer sunshine (remember warm weather?) and was honestly such a delight! The book follows Michael, a gay biracial boy growing up in England, figuring out where he belongs and his sexuality, and discovering his love of drag. This book is simultaneously powerful and like a hug from an old friend. It’s written in verse which, wasn’t something I’d read before picking this book up, but quickly prompted me to pick up more books written in the same way. It’s a stunning book discussing identity, family, sexuality and community and I absolutely adored it! There are also some gorgeous illustrations in it by one of my favourite artists, Anshika Khullar, so I highly recommend picking up a physical copy if you can, to get the full experience!
This third book would definitely be in my top three of the year if I were to rank them – All the Paths to You by Morgan Lee Miller just made me feel so incredibly seen and immediately after finishing it I was dying to re-read it! All the Paths to You is the sequel to All the Worlds Between Us – a young adult novel following Quinn as she is training to compete in the swimming World Championships after just missing out on qualifying for the Olympics. Quinn has no time for anything but training, that is until Kennedy Reed appears back in her life – her best friend and first kiss who hasn’t spoken to her in years – but it turns out that both her and her brother have a crush on Kennedy. All the Paths to You picks up a couple of years after the first book and could be read as a stand alone, though I really recommend picking up the first book…first! If you, like me, love friends to lovers then this series is for you! It discusses mental health in sport so, so well and put into words feelings I’ve had for years but never managed to properly explain. I have a full review up on the blog if you want to know more of my thoughts but overall – pick this book up!!
This is How You Lose the Time War was a book I picked up one afternoon last year (I think it was last year…time is a bit fuzzy in my head recently!), tried to read it in the Waterstones café, couldn’t understand what was going on, and kept it on my bookshelf for months before finally picking it up. But when I did pick it up – wow did it blow me away! The book follows Red and Blue, two agents on opposing sides of a time war who start the book leaving each other snarky letters when they foil each other’s plans, but it slowly starts to grow into something more. This is How You Lose the Time War has some of the most beautiful and flowery prose I have ever read and I would love to just be able to merge this book completely into my being! It is a bit easy to get lost in at the start but if you persevere past the first few pages, it really is an absolute masterpiece!
Belle Révolte is a sapphic 2020 release that I feel has sadly gone a bit under the radar this year, which to me is strange since the majority of my Goodreads friends who have read it really loved it – and I did too! Belle Révolte is a gorgeous French inspired fantasy and prince and the pauper retelling that is absolutely to die for! It follows Emilie who so desperately wants to study to become a physician, and Anette who is overlooked by her family and really wants to study magic. The two swap lives and go to two very different and very unique magic schools to learn their respective crafts, that is before war breaks out. I cannot articulately express how good this book is both for its discussions on class and power, and for it’s amazing friendships and relationships – academic rivals to lovers? Yes please! The ending left me absolutely dying for a sequel but I need more people to scream about this book with so please go and pick it up!!
The Truth About Keeping Secrets is a book that completely caught me by surprise with how much I loved it! The book follows Sydney whose dad unexpectedly died in a car crash – but she believes that something more sinister is at play. At the funeral, Sydney sees June the homecoming queen, at the back of the room, and she begins to wonder why she’s there and what she’s hiding. You can tell Savannah Brown is a poet, as her writing is just so lyrical and beautiful! Although this is marketed as a thriller, I would say it’s more of a contemporary novel with some thriller aspects, particularly nearing the end of the book. I have a full review for this one too (that I’m quite proud of) if you want to know my full thoughts, but it’s a truly stunning book with one of my favourite slow-burn friends to lovers sapphic romances!
Cemetery Boys was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and it definitely didn’t disappoint! The book follows Yadriel, a young brujo whose family are having trouble recognising his true gender. Yadriel is determined to prove himself and so secretly performs the ritual to become a full brujo, before attempting to summon his cousin’s ghost in order to set him free. Yadriel, however, accidentally summons Julian Diaz’s ghost – the school’s bad boy – who wants to know what happened to him before Yadriel can set him free. This was my first ever buddy read with the lovely Hsinju and I had so, so much fun reading it with them! The romance is so, so sweet and this book absolutely warmed my heart. It was the most fun to read and absolutely deserves all the hype it gets! If you’re gonna pick up one 2020 debut, make it this one!
This next one is mildly cheating because it is the whole Cute Mutants series so far by SJ Whitby (though if I had to pick one, it’d be a toss up between books 2 and 3!). The first book follows Dylan who, after kissing Emma Hall at a party one night, wakes up with some rather unusual superpowers – they can talk to inanimate objects! Dylan finds a whole group of ‘Cute Mutants’ who now have some awesome powers, but there’s one other mutant out there causing unnatural earthquakes. So, Dylan and the gang decide to team up to take him down! This series just absolutely spoke to my obsession with the X-Men films (I would say growing up but I still watch them – First Class is my comfort movie) and with witty dialogue and oh so loveable characters, it’s one of the most fun series I’ve read all year! I have reviews up for the first three books already and I can’t wait to see more of my Cute Mutants next year!
The next book is another one that completely took me buy surprise with how much I loved it (and is also the only not-queer book on this list, so that really says something about it!). The Poet X follows Xiomara as she deals with her strained relationship with her mother and religion, whilst discovering her love and passion for slam poetry. This is another book told in verse that absolutely blew me away and the ending left me in tears! The discussion on strained mother daughter relationships was done so, so well and, although I am not the biggest fan of slam poetry, it was incorporated into the novel so seamlessly and I really enjoyed it! Since reading this one, I also read and loved Elizabeth Acevedo’s Clap When You Land and I can’t wait to read With the Fire On High, hopefully in 2021!
The tenth and final book on my top 10 list is the wonderful The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett which, after a year of feeling rather disconnected from fantasy (though you can’t tell from my top 10), reminded me of why I love the genre so much! The Winter Duke follows Ekata who, after her whole family bar her falls under a magical sleeping curse, is forced to take up her brother’s position of Duke, as well as his warrior bride. Ekata begrudgingly takes the role but her rule is challenged and so she must go through a series of trials to prove she is worthy of becoming Duke, all while trying to avoid political chaos and figure out how to wake her family up. This book is so wonderfully political and brutal and the worldbuilding is honestly phenomenal (now is the perfect time of year to pick it up!). I, again, have a full review because I couldn’t stop myself from gushing about it, but it truly is one of my favourite fantasy books of 2020!
And finally, my honourable mentions!:
- A Dead Djinn in Cairo by P. Djèlí Clark (read here) – a sapphic steampunk historical fantasy novella set in Egypt where an investigator has to look into the mysterious death of a djinn.
- Scapegracers by Hannah Abigail Clarke (buy) – a sapphic coven of witches, need I say more?
- The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis (buy) – a Western inspired fantasy following five girls who are on the run after one of them kills a man in the brothel they are forced to work at (and it’s sapphic!).
- Miss Meteor by Tehlor Kay Mejia and Anna Marie McLemore (buy) – a gorgeous magical realism novel about a girl who wants to be the first fat Latina girl to win her town’s beauty pageant (this one is also queer and has great found family!).
- The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley (buy) – stage manager Melody is rumoured to curse every play with bad luck whenever she is in a relationship and is made to stay single until the production of Les Mis is over, until she starts falling for the lead actress!
I’d love to know what your favourite books of 2020 were, and I’ll be catching up on all the blog posts I missed tomorrow! I hope 2020 is an amazing year for us all!