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.

24 Hours at the Biltmore Estate

24 Hours at the Biltmore Estate

Last month, I had the pleasure of exploring the magnificent Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. I’ve wanted to visit America’s largest residency for years, and finally had the opportunity to stay during our family road trip to the Outerbanks.

Built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt and his colleagues, the estate is teeming with fascinating history — for the full history of the Biltmore, click here. With everything from beautiful architecture, incredible food and wine and a lovely staff, it’s easy to see why thousands flock to the estate year after year.

Our visit lasted little more than 24 hours, but you could easily spend a week at the estate and never be bored. We stayed at the Village Hotel located in Antler Village on the 125,000 acre estate. Upon our arrival, we freshened up in our hotel rooms and headed out to explore. The first stop for my mom and I? The winery for some wine tasting!


We shipped home four bottles of exclusive Biltmore wine. I opted for the Library White – a sweet, Reisling-esque flavor – that includes an image from one of George’s favorite novels Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; this also happens to be one of my favorite books of all-time so I just had to have it! My mother chose the classic rosé, not only because of the taste, but because of the gorgeous illustration of the main house featured on the bottle.

We spent the second day exploring the main house and it’s gardens. Here are a few of my favorite photos from our adventures:

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George Vanderbilt was a well-read individual with a passion for literary works of all kinds. As you can see in some of the images, at this time, they are currently featuring costumes from some of his favorite novels that were turned into movies. I, being a lover of literature myself, was so inspired that I just HAD to pick up some of Mr. Vanderbilt’s favorites from the gift shop.

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This was, easily, one of my favorite places we visited during this trip. I will most definitely be making a return trip in the future — I already told my boyfriend I will be dragging him here for a long weekend!

I highly, highly recommend taking a trip here and eating at the Bistro restaurant in Antler Village next time you are looking for a getaway!

-K.