Top 10 Reads of 2020

A basic summary of 2020 for me.

I had to hop on here at least one more time this year to share one of my favorite posts to write annually: my top 10 favorite books of the year. In spite of all the craziness that 2020 threw at us, I surpassed my goal of 55 books and managed to read 57 books, exceeding the amount I read last year.

When it comes to picking these books, I take into account how well they are written, how captivated I am by the plot line, and – above all – how strongly the books made me feel. One of my reading goals this year was to go outside of my comfort zone genre-wise; based on my Goodreads list, I did a fairly good job of this tackling even some Sci-Fi reads — one of which even made my top ten!

Books & my pup are two things that helped me get through the year.

10. The Unraveling of Cassidy Holmes by Elissa R. Sloan

This was an enthralling page-turner that follows the glitz, glamour, and corruption of working as a pop group in the music industry. Cassidy Holmes first gets a taste of the limelight at 17 as a contestant on the famed tv show Sing It, America, but her rise to fame comes when she joins the group Gloss. Though a heavy, heartbreaking read, I found myself infatuated with the behind the scenes look at the music industry, and could not put this down. It definitely gave me some “Daisy Jones” vibes and took my back to growing up in the late 90s/early 2000s watching TRL and VH1.

9. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Riley Sager had me on the edge of my seat yet again. This is the type of book that you stay up reading until 1AM because it’s just that phenomenal. I totally got some “Haunting of Hill House” vibes throughout the book, but this story surpasses it by a landslide. I LOVE a good ghost story, and “Home Before Dark” has quickly shot to the top of my list as one of my favorites. Dare I say, this could very well be my new favorite thriller of all time😱

8. Majesty by Katharine McGee

Book 2 in the American Royals series was better than I could have imagined. Everyone is doing some growing up in this book — save for Jefferson **facepalm**. Beatrice is now queen and engaged to Teddy, while still trying to figure out herself and her role as the first female monarch. Meanwhile, Sam finds herself in a relationship with a new man as she’s learning how to properly be “the heir”, and Daphne is being the same old scheming Daphne. I’m so sad that this story is over, but I simply could not put this book down. I need book 3 ASAP!!

7. Beach Read by Emily Henry

If you know me, you know I’m not the biggest fan of romances; however Beach Read was the perfect escape I needed from the world right now and has to be one of my favorite love stories. I giggled, I scoffed at the cheesiness, and by the end, I was ugly crying.

6. Recursion by Blake Crouch

A mysterious disease known as “false memory syndrome” is driving its victims mad by giving them memories they never lived. Dark and trippy, “Recursion” left me on the edge of my seat from the very first page. I love the way Barry and Helena’s stories intertwined. I’m so glad I decided to step out of my usual book genres, and give this one a try!

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

In a time where Death is wreaking havoc on Nazi-occupied Germany, Liesel discovers a gravedigger’s handbook by her brother’s grave. Thus begins her streak of stealing books, and falling in love with words and literature. Wow. What a story. Books + WWII + an unlikely narrator= the perfect recipe for an outstanding book. I could have easily read this in 2 days, but I really wanted to savor this powerful story. I can’t believe it took me so long to read this

4. Ghosts of Harvard by Francesca Serritella

Cady Archer arrives at Harvard not only to follow in her schizophrenic brother Eric’s footsteps, but also to figure out what led him to his suicide his junior year. Cady struggles to find her way through the competitive academics and build a social life while trying to crack the cryptic clues her brother provided in a notebook. She eventually gets so swept up in figuring out her brother’s story that she ends up in a downward spiral in her own life – missing classes, ditching friends, and hearing voices from the ghosts that still roam the grounds of Harvard. She begins to think that the ghosts are somehow connected to her brother, but she finds that listening to them is contributing to her own demise. What she does find out about Eric is even bigger than she could have imagined.

“Ghosts of Harvard” had me hanging onto every word, and is another book I can add to my 2020 favorites. I adored the dark academia vibes with a touch of paranormal surrounding the mystery of Eric and what he got himself into. I eventually started to figure out where the story was going, but I was not expecting the final plot twist. I hope to read more from Serritella soon!

3. The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

“What is a person if not for the marks they leave behind?” What a spectacular novel from V.E. Schwab! A young French girl makes a deal with the devil for eternal life, but the catch is that no one will be able to remember her for the rest of her days. When she finally meets the one person who can remember her, she’s bound and determined to leave her mark on history. Little did she know that she would find herself in a love triangle between a human boy and the devil himself. Beautifully poetic, I’m so glad I didn’t rush this so I could appreciate Schwab’s lyrical writing so much more. I loved following Addie’s story as she lived through poignant moments in history, and was left craving more.

2. What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon

Anna Gallagher grew up yearning to travel to Ireland with her grandfather after hearing his stories about growing up there. Unfortunately, he passes away before they can go together, but his dying wish is to have Anna spread his ashes there. When Anna goes to his childhood home
to make it his final resting place, she manages to stumble back in time to 1921 – a tumultuous time in Ireland’s history.

Harmon’s writing is exquisite and atmospheric; the story completely envelops the reader and takes them back in time to a tumultuous period of Ireland’s history. Though it has some fantastical elements, this historical fiction was exactly what I was looking for after I hit a slump in the genre. Anne’s story completely captivated me from beginning to end, and definitely had me shedding a few tears.

1. The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman

I’m going to try to do this book justice with my review, but I have so many feelings rushing through me. Emilia is a second-born daughter who believes in the family curse that she is unable to love or be loved. When her estranged Aunt Poppy writes to ask Emilia and her cousin Lucy on a trip to accompany her to Italy in order to break the family curse, it is an offer Emilia cannot refuse. Unfortunately, Emilia has lived under her strict Nonna’s rules her entire life, and she is livid with Emilia’s decision to travel with Poppy. Despite disobeying her grandmother’s wishes and ignoring her older sister’s advise, Emilia not only finds herself on the trip, but she learns so much more about her family history than she ever imagined.

Oh my gosh. This is my favorite book I’ve read in 2020. I simply adore Poppy with her tenacity, zest for life and love, and the wisdom. The imagery took me back to my time spent in Italy a few years ago, which was an excellent escape from reality in a time when we can’t travel. I laughed, I cried, but above all I did not want this story to end. It’s also an added bonus that the author is a fellow Michigander!

My TBR pile for 2021 is already massive, and I cannot wait to continue to share my reading list with you. To stay up to date on what I’m reading, check out my Goodreads page, or check out my Instagram stories. What was your favorite book you’ve read this year?

-K.

National Book Month: 2018 Reading Round-Up

Detroit Public Library

We may still have a few months left of 2018, but in honor of October being National Book Month, I thought I’d celebrate by compiling a list of the books I’ve read this year thus far.

A bit of background before we jump in…

My love for books goes waaaaay back. I remember being bound and determined to learn how to read when my mom informed me that I wasn’t going to get an American Girl doll until I could actually read the books that came with them. I still remember the first book I learned to read happened to be about a firefighter, and I would read it over and over again in an attempt to perfect it. What started as a challenge to overcome blossomed into a passion of mine, and the rest is history. Today, you can always find me carrying a book wherever I go!

This year, I made it a goal of mine to read books that I already own since I’ve made it to the last book of the Outlander series. I’m proud to say that I’ve [mostly] stuck with that goal and knocked out a number of books that have been hanging out on my shelf collecting dust for the past few years.

Also new to my reading list this year is the Book of the Month club — shout out to my co-worker for hooking a sister up! At the beginning of each month, BOTM allows you to choose from five new books in varying genres (some of which aren’t even being sold on the market yet). It’s $14.99 for one book, and you can add on others from the current month or previous months for $9.99 each. You also have the opportunity to opt out each month, and can get free book credits from referring a friend! If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, you can sign up here.  This is totally not sponsored, I genuinely want to share my obsession with you!

2018 Reads

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven // While I don’t usually read many YA novels at this point, I heard so many rave reviews that I had to check it out myself. The main characters meet by talking each other off the ledge of the school bell tower. Theodore Finch is a “strange kid” fascinated by death and constantly fantasizes about his own; while Violet Markey, a former member of the popular crowd, is learning to cope with her sister’s death. After being paired up for a school project on the natural wonders of their state, they develop a close bond; however, as Violet’s world takes a turn for the better, Theodore’s takes a turn for the worse. A lot of reviews compare this book to A Fault In Our Stars, but this completely stands alone. It addresses mental health in a way I’ve never read before, and found it to be beautifully captivating and extremely emotional.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin // When four siblings go to a psychic as children, they discover the exact date they are going to die. This book follows how each one chooses to live their life as their death date impends. I really liked how the book was split up to focus on each sibling separately from the rest, particularly because each story differed vastly from the others. I loved the story line and the unique lives each character led.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah // Taking place in a small French village during World War II, this story follows Vianne Mauriac and her younger, rebellious sister Isabelle and the differing paths they take in order to survive the war. While Vianne’s husband goes off to fight, she tries to keep herself and her daughter alive while quartering the enemy in their home. Isabelle finds herself passionate about the resistance, and ends up falling in love with a fellow member of the resistance; that is, until he betrays her.  I love, love, love this book! I’ve spoken about my obsession with historical fiction novels for a while now, but this book surpassed all my expectations and kept me hungry for more throughout. There were so many facets explored in this novel – relationships in wartime (romantic and familial), and right vs. wrong in traumatic situations are just two of them.

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero // Talk about a pep talk in a book. I know that so many self-help books can come across as dry and boring, and this is everything but that! Jen gives readers life advice through hilarious stories, easy exercises for facing your fears and overcoming self doubt, and tips of how to rise above and grasp the life you want and love by the horns. This will be one of those books I pick up at least once a year.

A Fine Imitation by Amber Brock // If you are a fan of The Great Gatsby — AKA my favorite book of all time — then this is the perfect read for you. Vera Bellington is a New York City socialite with a seemingly perfect, coveted life from the outside looking in. When the handsome, mysterious French painter Emil Hallan is hired on to paint a portion of Vera’s building, she finds herself enticed by his secrecy. In attempting to uncover the secrets of his past, Vera finds herself thinking about her own secrets dating back to her college days at Vassar, and eventually coming face-to-face with them. At the end of the day, she needs to decided whether the luxurious life she is living is really the one she desires.  I found this to be a very quick read – light and enjoyable. I didn’t find it to be all that much of a page-turner, but I think it’s because I felt no connection to the characters.

America’s First Daughter by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie // This book is dubbed as a historical fiction (yes, another one made my list), but it is based on research and letters written by and to Patsy Jefferson Randolph throughout her life. Throughout Thomas Jefferson’s life, particularly after the loss of his wife, Jefferson often looked to his daughter as his “right hand woman” in all circumstances. A story of love, politics, and the desire for freedom, America’s First Daughter left me wanting to know more about all of these key players during their time. I found it fascinating to dive into the story of someone who played such a large part in our nation’s history that the history books don’t tell you about. So much research went into this book

The Heiresses by Sara Shephard // From the mind of the author that brought us Pretty Little Liars, The Heiresses is the tale of a wealthy family who owns a New York City diamond empire and are plagued by tragic events. When the seemingly perfect Poppy Saybrook flings herself from her office window, her four cousins receive an ominous message that makes them fear for their lives. This book reminded me of a dark version of Gossip Girl, so obviously I loved every second of it! The mystery and drama was plentiful, and the end left me wanting more.

An Echo in the Bone (Outlander Series) by Diana Gabaldon //  I have been talking about my love for the Outlander series on my blog since I first rebranded, and I most likely will continue to talk about it for the rest of eternity – sorry not sorry! This is the seventh book in the series, and  the story line was chalk full of twists and turns, which resulted in me finishing it in record time. I don’t want to give away the story line since it does have spoilers if you are reading the preceding books or watching the series. I’m actually putting off starting the 8th and final book (so far) because I’m not ready for it to end!

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter // When a sick American actress lands on the shore of a small Italian village to wait for her lover to arrive and take her home, the son of the late village hotelier, Pasquale, falls head over heels for her, despite her current love affair. A story of lost love, the book hops back and forth between 1962 and modern-day Hollywood, presenting characters and connecting characters in a non-traditional fashion. Honestly, I was pretty disappointed by this, even though I pretty much bought it because I thought the cover was pretty and saw it was #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list. I had a really hard time getting into the story, and did not find it as funny as all of the reviews said it was.

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch // While Addie is on an incredible trip to Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, she just can’t stop dwelling on the horrible thing she did a few months prior, nor will her older brother Ian allow her to forget. While hiding away from her family, Addie discovers the guidebook Ireland for the Heartbroken which helps her cope with her issues while she anxiously awaits to travel to Italy to visit her friend and escape her family. Soon enough, her travel plans change, and she’s trapped on a road trip across Ireland with Ian and his Irish friend Rowan. With the help of the peculiar guidebook, Addie begins to address old wounds both within herself and with Ian. I was really excited to read this because I adored Love & Gelato, but I didn’t find this to be as riveting as L&G. I still enjoyed the story, but there were a few parts of the book where I had the feeling that I missed a few parts, which was not the case. All-in-all it was a lighthearted, quick read.

1984 by George Orwell // A Dystopian novel that displays the degradation of society under a totalitarian government. In a world where individuality is a crime and big brother is always watching, Winston Smith decides to rebel, but he soon learns that all actions have consequences and you can’t hide from big brother. Oddly enough, I found this book to be quite enjoyable; though, it is strange to me that many high schools have this as required reading. I do wish I read it while I was in high school to compare it to my thoughts reading it as an adult, as I don’t think I would have appreciated it as much then as I do now. 

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle // When I saw this book on the Book of the Month website, I knew it would be right up my alley, and it definitely didn’t disappoint! The story begs the question, “if you could invite five people to dinner dead or alive, who would you choose and why?” The book starts with Sabrina showing up to her 30th birthday dinner to find the five people she listed that she wanted to have dinner with when she was in college. As the dinner flows, the reader is given glimpses into Sabrina’s past, and it suddenly becomes clear that all of those in attendance are there for a particular reason. I was left quite pensive after reading this book, and have been inspired to write a full blog post on it — stay tuned for this post, which will be going live in the next couple weeks.

Circe by Madeline Miller // I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Greek mythology, so I was curious to get a peek inside the life of Circe. The seemingly powerless daughter of Helios, Circe is enamored by mortals, and through her fascination she ends up transforming a lover into a god and an enemy into a monster; it is then that she discovers her power of witchcraft. Zeus grows threatened and banishes her to the island of Aeaea where she further develops her powers while combating mortal men who sail to her island, love, and other gods and goddesses. I loved the strong female protagonist that Circe was, and how she was able to prove everyone that doubted her throughout her younger years wrong.

Goodbye, Paris by Anstey Harris //  I need to start by saying that I 100% believed that this was going to be a stereotypical romance novel, but I was mistaken. Grace is a quirky luthier, running her shop in a small English village while maintaining a long-term love affair with David. David wants to remain together while his children grow up so that he can leave his family without traumatizing them (red flag, right?). While on one of their romantic getaways to Paris, David saves a woman’s life, and everything spins out of control when it’s plastered across all news mediums. Grace is forced to learn the ugly truth about David as she’s working to win the world’s most prominent string instrument making competition, which completely shatters her. With the help of two unlikely friends, Grace is faced with the decision to allow her heartbreak to make or break her. I was very surprised at how much I liked this book. There were some slower aspects, but all-in-all I thought it was a great light read!

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager // The perfect psychological thriller to get you in the Halloween mood, The Last Time I Lied is a chilling story about Emma Davis — a young woman faced with the unthinkable at the ripe age of 13 while away at summer camp. A harmless game of two truths and a lie with the three older girls in her cabin turns dangerous when the three older girls go missing. Flash forward to modern-day, Emma is an artist who can’t paint anything but those missing girls. She’s approached to face her fears and return to Camp Nightingale as a counselor as it reopens 15 years after the disappearance. She is put in the same cabin as before, and starts to dig around to figure out what exactly happened to those girls all those years ago. Things start to become even more suspicious when she discovers she is being watched and threatened all these years later, which soon becomes deadly. I was so enthralled in this book! It constantly kept me guessing and was totally unpredictable. This is not your average scary campfire story; it’s so much better! This is by far one of the top books I’ve read this year.

The Lies We Told by Camilla Way // I just finished this last week, and could not put it down! Purchased as my October Book of the Month, The Lies We Told is yet another psychological thriller I chose to read in honor of Halloween. Clara’s world turns upside down when her boyfriend Luke goes missing. Things become even more strange when Luke’s older sister Emily suddenly reappears 20 years after her own disappearance in an attempt to help find Luke. As Clara searches for Luke, she uncovers secrets he and his seemingly perfect family have kept under wraps, and begins questioning those closest to her. Are Emily and Luke’s disappearances linked? Will she ever be able to trust Luke and his family after all of their lies? Discover the truth by delving in to The Lies We Told. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it starts off with a bang, and takes off from there, leaving the reader feeling as though every character is a suspect in the case. Near the end, I began to decipher who the culprit was, yet I still thought the author revealed all of the truths flawlessly at the conclusion.

To see what I’m currently reading, and what I plan on reading next, follow me on Goodreads, and check out my Instagram story highlights! Now I want to know: What’s your favorite book that you’ve read this year?

-K.

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