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.

Top 10 Reads of 2019

As 2019 draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the goals I’ve set for myself this year. One such goal was to read more, as I’ve always been an avid reader, but have not always dedicated the time to it. this was the first year that I decided to take part in the Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge. I set my goal of 40 back in January, later changing it to 50 once I surpassed that goal in the fall. To my surprise, I have surpassed my goal of 50 just last week, and am ending the year having read a total of 53 books.

As my library continues to grow, I decided to compile my top 10 books of the year — a task that proved to be much more difficult than I anticipated. Since my to-read list continues to grow and I grow more ambitious, I’m thinking of doing a review of what I read each month, as opposed to a wrap up of the whole year in the coming years.

10. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

After hearing nothing but wonderful things about this book, I just had to read it. I was not disappointed. Evelyn Hugo was a big star, oh, and she was married seven times. She is spending her days out of the spotlight when she finally decides to give her final interview recounting her story (which turns out to be a full-blown tell-all biography) to a young journalist. Why does she pick her of all people? Well, you’ll have to find out for yourself in this exquisite story of success, and the price that comes with the celebrity guise.

9. Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

This was my first Ruth Ware read, and I cannot wait to pick up more of her books. I love a good thriller, especially a creepy atmospheric novel that takes place in the middle of nowhere Scotland. The novel follows letters that the former nanny is writing to her lawyer from prison trying to clear her name after one of the children she was looking after winds up dead. What I found to be most unique about this story was that the main character is not all that likeable and untrustworthy, which helps keep the reader guessing until the very end.

8. Beyond the Point by Claire Gibson

I adored this book and was invested all the way through; it was heartwarming & heartbreaking all at the same time. My only qualm about the book is that I was left with a ton of questions at the end that left me wanting more. I felt like I really got to know each character, and would definitely be interested in a sequel since the three main characters all seemed to have more to their stories.

7. House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

What do you get when you combine a fairytale with horror and a dash of romance? “House of Salt and Sorrows” – the book with a genre that I never knew I needed. I was hooked when I discovered that it was the retelling of a Brothers Grimm fairytale, and I was not disappointed. I absolutely adore the haunting atmosphere of the Thaumas sisters’ world Craig created.

6. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

It is important that I preface this review with a warning: this book is certainly not for everyone and is chalk-full of content that can be triggering. Initially, this book started as a slow burn, languidly enveloping me into the atmospheric world of Yale – though, not the Yale we know today. This Yale is teeming with paranormal activity, secret societies, and occult magic. Before I knew it, I was completely captivated by this dark novel. Bardugo’s rich creativity kept me hooked with each turn of the page, and I look forward to seeing what she brings to the table with the next installment of this series.

5. American Royals by Katharine McGee

This novel follows the [fictional] descendants of George Washington as Beatrice prepares to ascend the throne as the first queen of the United States, and is narrated from 4 points of view – Beatrice, Samantha – her rebellious younger sister, Nina Gonzalez – Sam’s best friend, and Daphne Deighton – Sam’s twin brother Jefferson’s ex-girlfriend who believes she is destined to be a princess. I will read just about anything with a royal plot line, so when “American Royals” came out, I knew I had to read it immediately! Drama, deception, romance, this book has it all. I cannot wait for the next book to come out next fall.

4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

This is not your typical murder mystery, in fact, it is one of the most magnificent books I’ve ever read. Set at a private college in New England, this book begins by exposing the reader to the fact that a group of elitist Classical scholars have killed one of their classmates. The plot is that of a dual timeline — the days leading up to the murder and the days following. It is a heavy read that left me both verklempt and bewildered for days.

3. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Literally everyone needs to read this book!! Manson presents a hilariously vulgar tough love approach to creating self-awareness and learning about what matters most in life. This book has been sitting on my “to-read” shelf for years, and now I wish I would have had the opportunity to read it at a younger age.

2. The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh 

“The Beautiful” is hands-down one of my absolute favorite books I’ve read this year. Placed in the haunting setting of 1800s New Orleans, Celine Rousseau finds herself constantly facing dangerous situations. Due to this, she surrounds herself with the mysterious members of La Coer des Lions. The problem? They seem inhuman. After being a Twilight fan in high school, I couldn’t help but be at least a bit leery on another series about vampires; however, this decadent read left me savoring every page – I did not want this story to end!

1. The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

“There is a reason you glance up when you first hear a melody, or tap your foot to the sound of a drum. All humans are musical. Why else would the Lord give you a beating heart?” The remarkably alluring story of Frankie Presto left me completely enchanted and tugged at my heartstrings. As a huge music fan, I loved the connection Albom wove between Frankie and the artists of yesteryear and today, creatively narrating the story by none other than music.

Honorable Mention: The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

I’m including this because I JUST finished this before this post went live. Elegant, heart-achingly beautiful, and tragic, “The Glittering Hour” hooked me after the first few chapters. Grey seamlessly interconnects society girl Selina Lennox’s story with her daughter Alice’s in a dual timeline between the years of 1925 and 1936. I adored the thorough development of characters as Grey built the plot, though it did get a bit “wordy” at times. I didn’t love the additional forbidden love initially, as it felt overdone, but Selina and Lawrence’s romance moved me to tears in the last pages of the story.

I’m always looking for some new, challenging reads to add to my list. What was your favorite book you read this year?

-K.