2020 End of Year Book Survey

Jan 28, 2021

I've almost reached the end of my reflections on 2020. I wasn't lying when I told you this was my favorite time of year! I love looking back at what I've learned, the progress I've made, the obsessions I've discovered, and more. I've already shared my top 20 books of 2020, but I love filling out this end of the year survey (from Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner) as a more in-depth look at the best and worst of my bookish and blogging life last year.

1. Number of Books You Read: 170 books
2. Number of Re-Reads: 20 re-reads
3. Genre You Read the Most From: Contemporary, per usual

1. Best book you read in 2020?
As always, I can't choose just one! Here's one for each of the top five genres I read this year:

CONTEMPORARY | If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

FANTASY | The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

HISTORICAL | Betty by Tiffany McDaniel

MYSTERY | Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith

NON-FICTION | I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott

All of my favorites will be mentioned throughout this post, but here's my top twenty books of the year.

A Note: I challenged myself not to repeat any books in the answers below so that I could highlight a greater variety of books. It was difficult, but it helped me avoid highlighting the same books over and over again.

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn't?
I was really looking forward to The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss based on the adorable cover, the setting, and my bestie's love for it... and then I hated it. I wasn't a fan of the writing, but the romance was the worst.

3. Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book of 2020?

IN A GOOD WAY | I'd heard great things about Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb, but it didn't sound like something I'd typically pick up. Well, I ended up loving it and pushing it on my mom and sister, too.

IN A BAD WAY | After adoring The Flatshare, I really expected to love The Switch by Beth O'Leary. I even pre-ordered a UK copy for their adorable cover! And while it wasn't terrible, I was definitely disappointed overall.

4. Book you "pushed" the most people to read in 2020?
There are a handful of books that I pushed on people in real life this year, and one that immediately came to mind is The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. My sister, cousin, and bestie all read it based on my recommendation.

5. Best series you started in 2020? Best sequel of 2020? Best series ender of 2020? Best series overall in 2020?

STARTED | Although I had mixed feelings for House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas at times, I can't deny that it made me so hyped for a new series from this beloved author. The last 25%, in particular, totally delivered!

SEQUEL | No one is more shocked than I am that it's How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny. I thought I'd written this series off after reading the first four books, and yet I binged a ton more in 2020 and 5-starred this one.

ENDER | Igniting Darkness by Robin LaFevers was an amazing conclusion to this duology that I didn't even know I needed. I loved seeing where all these characters ended up and have my fingers crossed for another spin-off!

OVERALL | I didn't love every book equally, but I've got to hand it to The Travis Series by Lisa Kleypas. Kelly has been begging me to read it for years, and I refused until our March Madness bet. Welp, she was right. I said it.

6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2020?
This was a tough call, and you can check out my ten favorite new-to-me authors of 2020 to see who was in the running. I've got to hand it to Emily Henry. Beach Read was fantastic and has me excited for more from her!

7. Best book from a genre you don't typically read?
I had more options for this question than in most years, thanks to the variety of what I read this year. The standout was I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott, which was an essay collection that I adored.

8. Most action-packed, thrilling, unputdownable book in 2020?
A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson, for sure. I checked this out from the library based on the hype and never expected to love it as much as I did. I'm so happy it's a series and that book two is out soon.

9. Book you read in 2020 that you are most likely to re-read next year?
There are 4-5 books that I've already got in mind for a re-read, but one of them is definitely You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle. I already bought the audio for a future re-read, too! This one was just so much fun.

10. Most memorable character in 2020?
Betty by Tiffany McDaniel was a fictional story inspired by her own mother's story, and wow. That's honestly all I've got to say about this book. I think it's my favorite read of 2020, and Betty was an unforgettable heroine. 

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2020?
Here are four of my favorites: A Place at the Table by Sadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan, Miss Austen by Gill Hornby, Jane Was Here by N. Jacobsen, D. MacLennan, and L. Nilson, and Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2020?
There were a few contenders that fit better in other categories, so I'll go with The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. I loved how Schwab's writing had a fairy tale quality to it. It was so easy to lose myself in this story!

13. Most thought-provoking book in 2020?
That would be The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi. I learn so much from her weekly podcast, and her book was no different! I love that the principles are applicable to so many situations and plan to re-read this one.

14. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2020 to finally read?
The last two books in the Dublin Murder Series – The Secret Place and The Trespasser – by Tana French. I thought I was done with the series after book 4, but I'm so glad I picked it back up. French won me over in no time!

15. Book that shocked you the most?
I continue to be obsessed with the world of Cormoran Strike and think each mystery is better than the one before it. Troubled Blood – a whopping 944 pages – was full of shocking twists and turns from beginning to end.

16. Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2020?
Two favorites from books that I haven't mentioned anywhere else in this post:

“Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” – Devotions by Mary Oliver

“The truth of course is that if people really were as happy as they look on the Internet, they wouldn’t spend so much damn time on the Internet, because no one who’s having a really good day spends half of it taking pictures of themselves. Anyone can nurture a myth about their life if they have enough manure, so if the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, that’s probably because it’s full of shit.” – Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

17. Shortest & longest book you read in 2020?

SHORTEST | And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman

LONGEST | The Holy Bible

18. OTP of the year?
Definitely the couple in Dear Emmie Blue by Lia Louis! I randomly got this book for review, and it ended up being one of my absolute favorite reads of the year. So much swoon – with depth, too. I was rooting so hard for this hero!

19. Favorite non-romantic relationship of the year?

CO-WORKERS | I loved how Friends & Strangers by J. Courtney Sullivan explored the sticky friendship between a mother and her child's nanny. This was a slower, character-driven read that totally worked for me.

FRIENDSHIP | The ladies in The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes were wonderful. I loved their adventurous spirits and how they helped each other, despite their differences. Friendship + horses + books = my kind of book.

FAMILY | While it was all very messy and dramatic, I am totally here for the family dynamics in The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. I didn't always like their choices, but I still couldn't put it down.

20. Favorite book you read in 2020 from an author you've read previously?

ADULT | Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan was a delightful retelling of A Room with a View by E.M. Forster, one of my favorite classics. I loved this world of wealth and drama and thought it was a clever contemporization.

NON-FICTION | Don't Overthink It by Anne Bogel was really helpful for me and will likely be a book I re-read in the future. I am definitely guilty of overthinking and indecisiveness, so it felt like this was directed at me.

21. Best book you read in 2020 that you read based solely on a recommendation from somebody else?
I would never in a million years have picked up The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix if my sister hadn't recommended it to me. Horror? Heck no! But y'all, this ended up being a really fun read. 

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2020?
He definitely has flaws, but Jason Larsen from The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez did steal a little piece of my heart this year. There's just something about his charming personality and musical ability got to me!

23. Best 2020 debut you read?
Happy & You Know It by Laura Hankin was a satirical take on motherhood, wealth & privilege, and having it all. I loved the elements that felt relatable – and laughed at the drama. This was such a satisfying read. 

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2020?
The desolate, small Texas town in Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore felt like it was a character all on its own right. I could picture it in my mind and loved how Wetmore explored how the heroines were shaped by this place.

25. Book that was the most fun to read in 2020?
That would be If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane. It was the first book I read after my baby was born, one of my most-anticipated 2020 releases, and gave me ALL THE FEELS. I have great memories of reading it!

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2020?
Chanel Miller's memoir, Know My Name, detailed the sexual assault she suffered and the additional trauma of the trial/sentencing. It's infuriating and heartbreaking, especially because you know it's one story of many more.

27. Hidden gem of the year?
Lucy Parker's Headliners was such a great addition to her London Celebrities series. I still think she's an underrated author! She's so great at contemporary romance – just the right amount of drama and so much swoon.

28. Book that crushed your soul?
I debated this one for a while, but I think Long Bright River by Liz Moore is the most vivid in my mind. The way it depicted the opioid crisis, addiction, and poverty was absolutely heartbreaking. It's a heavy read.

29. Most unique book you read in 2020?
The most unique story was Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson, in which two kids set themselves on fire when angry. The most unique format was Annie's Life in Lists by Kristin Mahoney, written entirely in list. 

30. Book that made you the maddest?
My least favorite book was The Marriage Game by Sara Desai, but What You Wish For by Katherine Center made me the biggest. The heroine made me want to scream, and the writing was so internal. Show me, stop telling!

1. New favorite book blog/bookstagram you discovered in 2020?
I'm cheating because this isn't a book blog, but I'm obsessed with Em for Marvelous. I originally started following for her goals posts but have quickly become a fan of everything she shares on her blog.

2. Favorite post that you wrote in 2020?
I mainly wrote mini reviews for my Quick Lit posts, but my favorite discussion post I wrote was about what I've learned from our newest love. A close second was my post about my favorite bookish memories!

3. Favorite bookish related photo you took in 2020?
Maybe this photo of The Heir Affair? It's what first came to mind. I've stopped posting to bookstagram, so I didn't take very many creative bookish photos this year. I did love this photo with my newborn in it though.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
Did I participate in any bookish events this year? I honestly don't think so. 

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2020?
My sister discovering a love of reading! I've always been the only avid reader in my immediate family, but sister became a total nerd in 2020. She's even featured on my blog now! I love our monthly dates to Barnes & Noble. 

6. Most challenging thing about your blogging or reading life this year?
Some of the challenges to my blogging and reading life stemmed from having a new baby and making time for both hobbies. As I approach 10 years of blogging, I've struggled a bit over my vision (goals?) for this space.

7. Most popular post this year on your blog?
In terms of views, it was my post celebrating 10 Years of Top Ten Tuesday! I doubled the fun and made two lists: one revisiting my past answers to 10 topics and one sharing my 10 favorite past topics I'd answered. 

8. Post you wished got a little more love?
There isn't anything that jumps out at me, though maybe my posts about my planners? And I think I might enjoy writing my My Year in {2020} posts more than people like reading them. Oh well. Haha!

9. Best bookish discovery?
I love this nerdy tee from Bookshelf Tees, and Lauren Naylor Designs' bookmarks are gorgeous. And my AirPods have increased my audiobook consumption more than I ever anticipated, so they deserve a mention, too.

10. Did you complete any reading challenge or goals that you set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I did! I completed most of my reading challenges/goals that I set for myself, and you can read about them here. I've already set new bookish goals for 2021 and am so excited to see how I do!

1. One book you didn't get to in 2020 but will be your number one priority in 2021?
I can't believe I haven't read Admission by Julie Buxbaum. Even though it didn't come out until December, I've read most of her past books early for review or the day they released. This is a 2021 priority, for sure!

2. Non-debut book you are most anticipating for 2021?
How can I choose between Sarah J. Maas and Mhairi McFarlane? I will reluctantly give the the edge to A Court of Silver Flames because I can't wait to be back in this beloved world. Here are all my 2021 most-anticipated releases.

3. 2021 debut you are most anticipating?
Early reviews have me excited for Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano. As far as non-fiction, I'm really looking forward to Share Your Stuff. I'll Go First. by Laura Tremaine. But I've got my eye on more books!

4. Series ending you are most anticipating in 2021?
I cannot for the life of me think of any series that are ending in 2021! I'm excited for a bunch of sequels but can't think of many endings. Maybe Life's Too Short by Abby Jimenez if it's the last book in that companion series? 

5. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging in 2021?
For reading, I'd love to catch up on all my NetGalley reviews. It's just 15 books, some 2021 releases included, so it's manageable. For blogging, I want to improve my email newsletter which means I've got research to do.

6. A 2021 release you've already read and recommend to everyone?
I didn't read any 2021 releases in 2020 and haven't loved any that I've read so far this year enough to rave and recommend them to everyone. But The Heiress Gets a Duke by Harper St. George is the strongest contender!

If you completed the survey, leave a link below.
I'd love to see what made your list for 2020!

Author Obsessions in 2020

Jan 26, 2021

Let's talk about the new-to-me authors that I discovered in 2020. This Top Ten Tuesday topic, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, is one I've done every year since 2012! Sometimes I can easily come up with 10 authors and other years it's a struggle. 2020 was  the former! In fact, it was hard for me to narrow it down to just 10. I didn't decide based on who I thought was the best writer or wrote the best books. Instead, I chose the 10 authors that made me want to read more from them. I based it more on whether I'd read their backlist / pre-order their next book rather than if their book made my Top 20 of 2020 list (though many did!). Here's who made my list:

1. KENDRA ADACHI | The Lazy Genius Way
I love Adachi's Lazy Genius podcast and her Instagram, and I'm so happy that she was able to share her process in her book! I do think the principles in it were more memorable than her actual writing style, but she earned a spot because I want to read anything she publishes. I think the next book is food-related, and I can't wait!

2. RICK BRAGG | My Southern Journey
My Southern Journey was a random Goodwill find that I couldn't resist based on the 1) the price, 2) the cover, and 3) the length. A short book of Southern essays? Sure, I'll try it! Little did I know, I was about to fall in love with Bragg's writing and his audiobook narration. I've already bought four more of his books to read this year. 

3. LAURA HANKIN | Happy & You Know It
In 2020, I didn't pick up physical books nearly as often as I turned on an audio. And when I did, they often took me longer than normal to finish. Enter Laura Hankin and Happy & You Know It. I picked up my hardcover and couldn't put it down until I was done! This had me completely hooked, and I'm excited for Hankin's 2021 release.

4. EMILY HENRY | Beach Read
What I thought I was getting when I picked up Beach Read – a light and breezy contemporary novel befitting its title – wasn't quite what I got. I appreciated how Henry upended some of my expectations, but still gave me what I wanted in a romance. I need to check out her backlist of YA books and have her next adult book pre-ordered.

5. SARAH HOGLE | You Deserve Each Other
You Deserve Each Other was a delight, though I think it's the kind of book that will be polarizing with readers. The couple has some communication issues. For me, it worked! I thought the writing was quirky and sarcastic, and it made me excited to find a new voice in contemporary romance. Twice Shy can't get here soon enough!

Speaking of mysteries, I'm still trying to crack the case of how this book completely stole my heart. I adored the heroine and her crime-solving sidekick, and I thought the case itself was so compelling and memorable. I was thrilled to learn this was the first in a series and can't wait for the upcoming release of Good Girl, Bad Blood.

7. EMMA LORD | Tweet Cute
It takes a lot for a contemporary young adult novel to win me over these days, probably because I now identify too much with the parents, but Emma Lord did it in Tweet Cute. This reminded me of what I love about the genre! This was such a cute read and didn't take itself too seriously, so I'm looking forward to Lord's You've Got a Match

8. LIA LOUIS | Dear Emmie Blue
When I downloaded a review copy of Dear Emmie Blue, I had no idea it was about to cry, swoon, and close the last page with the biggest grin on my face. I haven't even reviewed this one yet because I can't put my love for it into words! I'm praying Louis' 2021 release, Eight Perfect Hours, is another perfect (for me) read.

Of everything I read in 2020, Betty is the book I'll remember most. I've discussed it endlessly with my sister, and we've pushed it on our mom. With vivid storytelling and a strong voice, it has an unforgettable heroine at its heart. It was one of the most emotionally heavy books I read but still hopeful, too. McDaniel's debut is now on my TBR!

10. MARY LAURA PHILPOTT | I Miss You When I Blink
I probably debated this addition to my list the longest. The way Philpott explored time, memory, and identity – and her Type A personality – was really meaningful for me and felt like something I read at the exact right time in my life. I have no idea if another essay collection would be as impactful, but I know I'd love for her to write one.

Past Favorites: 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015 | 2016 | 2017 | 2018 | 2019
Who was your favorite new-to-you author that you read in 2020?

Tales & Tiger Lily: December 2020

Jan 20, 2021

My sister recently joined bookstagram as @talesandtigerlily. Her name is Caroline, and Tiger Lily is her adorable sidekick (pictured above). Since she's discovered a love of reading, I've had the best time talking about books with her. Be sure to check out her introduction post to get to know her better. Once a month, you get a new installment of Tales & Tiger Lily. In each post, she reviews three of her favorite reads from the previous month and ends with a list of everything she read with ratings (and links to reviews, if applicable). Her top three from December:

“In darkness, we are naked. Our truest selves. Night is when fear comes to us at its fullest, when we have no way to fight it. It will do everything it can to seep inside you. Sometimes it may succeed - but never think that you are the night.”

A world divided. The East and the West, separated by different beliefs and viewing each other’s actions as “evil”, must decide if they are willing to put their polar opposite beliefs aside to save the kingdom from The Nameless One (a giant dragon threatening to destroy the world).

This book was filled with lot of characters, all of whom I loved dearly (even the evil ones hehe). I felt the world building, character development, and pacing were perfect for me. It really made me want to read more books with dragons. Why do I feel such a pang in my heart when a dragon is hurt? It made me want to return to the Throne of Glass series, so I can check on Manon and Abraxos (I seriously love that wyvern more than the people in the book). The action packed plot was everything I hoped for, and I am sad to be done with the book.

I think everyone could learn from this stunning book. Even though it is clearly high fantasy, there are things to be learned. Everyone is so quick to bash someone when they disagree with them, or even tell them they are not entitled to an opinion when it comes to certain matters. I took away from this book that you can ALWAYS listen to someone’s opinions. You can even disagree with someone every time, but you can always be kind.  | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ

[In December, Caroline read Empire of Storms, Tower of Dawn, and Kingdom of Ash to finish the series.]

Sometimes you just need a total escape from reality, and the Throne of Glass series is the perfect medicine for this. The world-building, the characters, the drama, the relationships — it is so addicting. Sarah J. Maas’s YA fantasy is the best out there (although it is too mature to be labeled YA). It’s full of unforgettable characters and cliffhangers, keeping you turning the pages to discover their fates. 

I absolutely loved so many of the characters, but of course my favorites are Manon and Rowan. Manon is a total badass with her fierce dragon Abraxos. Rowan is just the ultimate fantasy book boyfriend. My favorite book from the series is Empire of Storms because I got to see a lot of Manon and her boss moves. My least favorite was Tower of Dawn because Chaol was one of my least favorite characters. 

It took me awhile to finish the series, but I’m so glad I ended 2020 with Kingdom of Ash. It felt so satisfying completing it, and I was so happy to see the conclusion to the epic adventure. I LOVED IT! | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ

“Never flinch.” A cold whisper in her ear. "Never fear. And never, ever forget.”

I should be posting a review for 3 other books I have read this month, but I just wanna show you what I am currently reading. You know a book is good when you put it in your purse and pull it out whenever you have a free moment. I have also been listening to the audio. The narrator is Holter Graham (same guy from Serpent & Dove), and at first I didn’t love his voice, but I think he has the perfect tone/inflections for the book. It just works. He has a roughness to his voice that makes the action more intense. LOL.

I love to read reviews on Goodreads. I saw a ton of 5 star reviews and quite a bit of 2 star reviews. It seems people either LOVE Jay Kristoff’s writing in Nevernight or they hate it. There is a ton of dark, dry humor. It makes me giggle like the true nerd I am. Even Kristoff’s bio makes me laugh: “He is 6’7” and has approximately 13,520 days left to live. He does not believe in happy endings.”

The main character, Mia Corvere, is the ultimate badass with a no-filter, sassy attitude. There is depth though. She does have quite a bit of pain underneath her hard exterior. This pain drives her to seek revenge—and what better way to seek revenge on the people who have hurt her than to become apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins? 

As you can probably tell, I absolutely loved this book. It’s dark and filled with details (even includes many footnotes). Thanks to @_thatliterarylife for getting me excited to read it. Monica knows what’s up. | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ

Recapping the Rest of Caroline's December Reads:
From Blood and Ash by Jennifer Armentrout | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
Fable by Adrienne Young | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
Scythe by Neal Shusterman | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren | ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ๐Ÿถ.5

Quick Lit: December 2020

Jan 18, 2021

It's a moment to celebrate: with the exception of one book, I'm caught up on reviewing everything I read in 2020! I can't tell you how happy it makes me that I was able to be consistent and never fell too far behind. Thank goodness for my Quick Lit format + the power of setting goals! I finished 12 books in December, and I'm reviewing all of them in today's post. If you enjoy this feature, check out other readers' reviews at Modern Mrs. Darcy.

THIS TIME NEXT YEAR BY SOPHIE COUSENS – This was a really fun contemporary romance and perfect for the end of the year. I loved seeing the New Years Eve near misses between the two characters over the years, and I was invested in how these birthday twins would finally sort through all their personal baggage. I appreciated that the story involved personal growth for both characters, but I did occasionally find them frustrating. A huge part of the charm of this book was the setting. Without that, I might have more to nitpick about it. As it was, however, I So Liked It. It was leaning more into Enjoyed until the very end – things were wrapped up a little too perfectly and all the secondary characters made huge progress on their own problems. That was a bit too much for me, personally!

CHAIN OF GOLD BY CASSANDRA CLARE – Listen, I basically bought this book because quarantine and the cover got to me. Back in May, I was wandering around Target alone and couldn't take my eyes off this book. I've only read Clare's Infernal Devices series... and yet, I wanted to buy this spin-off book. At first, I had a hard time following all the characters and how they were related to one another. And I definitely could have used a re-read of the trilogy to refresh my memory. Other than that, however, this was a really fun read! The first half felt a little long, but the second half sucked me in. I loved the group dynamics and am very intrigued where the story is headed. I So Enjoyed It and will definitely continue the series when book two releases this year. Give me all the drama!

TASTE AND SEE BY MARGARET FEINBERG – Even though I'm not a foodie, I've noticed that I do love food in fiction. So, I was really intrigued by the premise of this Christian non-fiction book, which explores the Bible through a culinary lens. Feinberg notes that "food plays a prominent role in the most spiritually significant events from the moment the story starts" and then zeroes in on six specific foods in the Bible (fish, figs, bread, salt, olives, and meat). I appreciated how the book combined research and teaching with hands-on experience as Feinberg goes on a global adventure to do things like fish in the Sea of Galilee and harvest olives in Croatia. The focus and the way it was written really made it stand out to me, and I can see myself re-reading it someday. I So Enjoyed It.

THE JANE AUSTEN SOCIETY BY NATALIE JENNER – Would I have enjoyed this book as much as I did if it were about any author other than Jane Austen? Probably not. But as an Austen fan, I just loved this story about a group of her fans coming together to preserve her legacy. I thought the setting was charming, and it made me wish that I'd been able to visit Alton and Chawton Cottage when Kelly and I were in England. There were a lot of characters populating the story, but I was pleased with their development overall. It definitely isn't a character-driven book, but I did think they were fleshed out well considering the quantity. If you want to read it, I highly recommend the audio. It's narrated by Richard Armitage, and his voice is divine. Because I love Austen, I So Enjoyed It

SOMEONE TO ROMANCE BY MARY BALOGH – I've enjoyed Balogh's Westcott series overall, though some have worked better for me than others. The huge cast of family members can be hard to keep straight, making it daunting for readers who might be considering jumping in to the middle of the series. However, I do love the huge family dynamics and how they all show up for one another! I'd been looking forward to Jessica's story, and Balogh didn't disappoint. She was an enjoyable heroine, and I loved that she made the hero prove himself to her. I thought the hero's backstory was intriguing, and I couldn't wait to see how all of it resolved. I So Liked It but did listen on audio and think I may have felt less invested listening than I would have if I'd been reading the physical book.

HOUSE LESSONS BY ERICA BAUERMEISTER – I bought this memoir after hearing about it on the From the Front Porch podcast, and I'm so glad I did. This was a really lovely memoir-in-essays in which Bauermeister writes about renovating a trash-filled home in Washington and explores the way our spaces affect us. I found the parts about the power of home to be so moving! The research throughout about the area, different architecture elements, and related topics was a nice touch that kept it from getting lost in the nitty gritty renovation details. In a year where we've all spent so much time at home, this was a timely read. It made me appreciate the place I call my own and the people in it who fill it with love. I So Enjoyed It and gave it to my mom to read as soon as I was done.

IN A HOLIDAZE BY CHRISTINA LAUREN – I've mentioned before that I'm not a huge fan of holiday books. Combine that with the fact that Christina Lauren's last two books didn't work for me, and you'll have an idea of what this book was up against. Y'all, I'm shocked to say I So Loved It! It was such a fun holiday rom com, and the Groundhog Day setup added a nice dose of whimsy and mystery. I couldn't wait to find out what would happen and how Maelyn would find happen. Yes, it was perfectly predictable – but in a way I found comforting, if that makes sense. The romance was delicious and full of tension. Instead of feeling like it needed more development, I bought into all the backstory that existed off the page. That doesn't always happen for me! Reading it made me so happy.

HER LAST FLIGHT BY BEATRIZ WILLIAMS – Am I breaking up with Beatriz' books? I honestly might be. Kelly and I binged her backlist in 2018, which we called the Bestie Beatriz Binge. But sadly, I haven't enjoyed her books since then. I started Her Last Flight with hopes it would turn things around, but I think it just solidified that I don't click with her writing anymore. It was so melodramatic! I predicted one of the biggest twists in the book (which felt straight out of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo) and rolled my eyes at some of the others. I thought it was boring and learned that I don't really enjoy aviation stories. Her books have always been dramatic, but I used to be invested in the characters. In this one, everyone was intensely unlikeable for me. I hate to say it, but I'm So Over It.

THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS BY JENNY BAYLISS – Ooooooh, this book. The writing was over-descriptive, info dump-y, and rushed at the end, which affected the pacing. It lacked development between the heroine and the man she ends up with. Who, by the way, is absolute garbage. Justice for Kate! Though shame on her for not setting better boundaries and letting this jackhole continue to use her AND be a jerk. Second chance romance is one of my least favorite tropes, and this one exemplified why: if it didn't work out before, it was for a good reason. Namely, [redacted] needs to go sit in the corner and think about what he's done. Anyway, the setting was adorable because a small British town is all kinds of cozy during the holidays. That's all I can say to recommend it. I'm So Over It.

AND EVERY MORNING THE WAY HOME GETS LONGER AND LONGER BY FREDRIK BACKMAN* – Confession time: I first read an advance copy of this novella in 2016... and then never reviewed it. What a total fail! To give myself a pass, I will acknowledge that I had a baby that year and had not rediscovered my blogging rhythm. With a 2021 goal of catching up on my NetGalley queue, I checked this out from the library to re-read it. This is an emotional short story about a man, his son, and his grandson – and how they are all reacting to the man's failing memory. It was in Backman's typical style and voice, though I do think you can tell this story was more personal to him and not really written with the intent to publish it. It was very sad, but the length kept it from being too heavy. I So Enjoyed It.

MY SOUTHERN JOURNEY BY RICK BRAGG – Although I think I've read some of Bragg's essays in magazines, I've never familiarized myself with his style or work. I was missing out! I loved this collection of essays about life in the South. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the author, and found his Southern twang perfectly matched his words. He is a gifted writer, a born storyteller, and a dang good narrator. I loved the things that felt familiar to me, that called up my own memories of this place I call home, and the parts that showed a side of it I rarely see. The essays are grouped by theme (such as Home, Table, and Craft). My biggest complaint about the book was the last section, Spirit, about football. They didn't appeal to me at all. But overall, I So Loved It.

NEW MORNING MERCIES BY PAUL DAVID TRIPP – One of my overarching goals for 2020 was to revitalize my faith, which included reading through the Bible and a daily devotional. I chose New Morning Mercies as my devotional because I loved Tripp's writing, and I'm so glad that I did. Tripp continually points to God, reminding readers of the power of the Gospel and the gravity of sin. It was both encouraging and convicting, which is the highest compliment I can give. Many devotionals I've sampled lean too far into the fluff for me, cutesy encouragement that makes me feel good but is quickly forgotten. Tripp, on the other hand, shares important wisdom that I'd often think about all day long. I'm thankful for the truth he shares and So Loved It.

Have you read anything you loved lately?

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

Tales & Tiger Lily: 2020 Favorites

Jan 15, 2021

Last year, I started sharing monthly reviews from my sister, Caroline. She joined bookstagram as @talesandtigerlily, and I'm so obsessed with the fact that she's a book nerd now, too. We go on regular bookstore dates, chat about our current reads, and have matching bookish sweatshirts, of course. Once a month, I share her three favorite reviews from the previous month in a Tales & Tiger Lily post. Today, I've got something special for you: her 25 favorite reads from 2020! Here are five books each from her five favorite genres:


1. Writers & Lovers by Lily King: There is nothing I love more than a protagonist struggling through pain and all the things that make life tough, only to come out stronger and more resilient on the other side. It is messy, and at first you won’t feel attached to our main character, Casey Peabody, but by the end, you will be rooting for her. 

2. Godshot by Chelsea Bieker: This book makes me wanna grab an extra-large coke and hot Cheetos, and join the cult town of Peaches, California, for a wild ride. It has humor, depth, eccentric characters, and writing that is unlike any other. Our protagonist, Lacey May, discovers female friendship and overcomes the insane amount of difficulties she faces. I will never forget this story, and I really want another book by Chelsea Bieker ASAP. 

3. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell: The writing is poetic and pulls you in to the story of a fifteen-year-old girl and the sexual abuse she endures at the hands of her forty-two-year-old teacher. It is a difficult read, but one that has stayed with me. It is told from the perspective of Vanessa, so we get to see her train of thought during the abuse and after. Uncomfortable? Yes. Brilliant? Hell yes. 

4. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett: This was a slow burn for me, but it was beautifully written. A bond between a brother and a sister, the abandonment of their mother, and the death of their father—how do families overcome childhood trauma and pain? 

5. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman: I really wasn’t expecting to love this book, but there aren’t many characters I have ever loved as much as Eleanor. The humor, the character development, the writing style—absolutely perfect. If I can laugh on one page and get choked up on the next, it becomes an instant fave.


6. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow: This novel was magical, beautiful, and creative. Rich in detail, this story will captivate you and have you entering Doors that lead to other worlds. Our main character, January, is a brave, witty, young heroine. In her revelation of finding a Door leading us to places never found on a map, we discover adventure and friendship. On top of that, the writing is divine. 

7. Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo: This book is just a big mood. I absolutely loved our main character, Alex Stern. With a difficult past, she arrives at Yale and is tasked with monitoring the activities of the secret societies. Urban/paranormal fantasy isn’t usually my thing, but I LOVED this book. I can’t wait for the sequel, and I really hope Bardugo sticks to writing adult fantasy. 

8. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas: I binge read this addicting series, and this one was by far my favorite. I could not put it down, and my love for the Night Court is out of this world. I am going to reread this series in January, and I am HYPED. That is how you know you love a book. So damn much. 

9. Circe by Madeline Miller: One of the most interesting, breathtaking books I have ever read. I listened to the audiobook while I followed along, and I was swept up in the story. I love Circe. She is a badass, and a character I think about often. I will definitely be rereading this in 2021. 

10. The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon: This big book blew me away, and I still find myself wanting to pick it up and read it. The world building is amazing, I loved the characters, and please—give me all the dragons. If you love high fantasy, you have to read it.


11. Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson: This memoir written in verse is a story of a survivor who refused to be silenced. It says this book is “for anyone who has ever been lost, ignored, silenced, abused, assaulted, talked down to, made to feel small, or knows someone who has.” I savored every word and thought it was beautifully written. As so many girls and women are raped, books like this are needed to offer hope and light at the end of a dark tunnel. 

12. Hollywood Park by Mikel Jollet: This is a memoir of resilience at its finest. He was born into one of the country’s most infamous and and dangerous cults. I loved it was written in the beginning from his perspective as a child, to him growing up as a man dealing with his past. It less about the cult, more about the aftermath, and I felt completely invested in the story he chose to tell. 

13. Know My Name by Chanel Miller: Miller puts in writing so many feelings a lot of us have, yet cannot find the words to express. Her sexual assault story is heartbreaking, but it was beautiful to see her honesty. Her strength. Her unwillingness to let her suffering keep her from healing. 

14. Good Morning, Monster by Catherine Gildiner: Therapist Catherine Gildiner presents five of her most heroic and memorable patients. Holy cow. The horrors these patients faced in their childhoods. I cried when uncovering the source of their suffering, and I still think about these people today. It is truly amazing to me how people can heal even the most terrible wounds. 

15. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb: I read this book after my sister and mom both loved it, and I was hooked from the start. A therapist dealing with her own issues, while helping her patients find hope and change for the better—I could not wait to get to know each person better. One of my favorites from the book is a man who calls everyone an idiot, and I adored him. When his trauma was revealed, I literally wanted to bawl my eyes out and hug him. Oh, how we have no idea what someone is going through.


16. A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson: My sister recommended this one, and she still remembers all the details from the story. She loved it! Our main character, Pippa Fitz-Amobi, chooses a closed murder case as her topic for he final year project at school, and she is determined to find the real killer. I couldn’t wait to figure out who did it. I am really excited to read the next book! 

17. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell: Even if I don’t absolutely love them, I usually enjoy Jewell’s thrillers. This one is definitely my favorite. A house with dark secrets and three entangled families—this book is told from 3 POVs making it a quick, exciting read. Definitely finished The Family Upstairs in one sitting. 

18. The Whisper Man by Alex North: I loved this book!! Dysfunctional father-son relationships, fast-paced storytelling full of shocking surprises. I loved how the characters were highly flawed, and it is probably my favorite thriller I read this year. 

19. The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben: I think I loved this book so much because I absolutely adored one of the characters, Hester, a 70 year old woman who is a defense attorney. I just imagined this little old lady with great style and a whole lot of sass. There were many pieces to the puzzle with this book, and at times it was a lot, but I ended up really loving it. 

20. A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight: This was a slow-burn, murder mystery/legal thriller, and I was completely hooked. There are a lot of characters, but they are well-developed, and I enjoyed the depth of this book. Usually my annoyance with thrillers is the lack of character development, but this one checked all my boxes.


21. Lovely War by Julie Berry: This book was sooo good, and the quality of writing did not feel like a YA read. It is a love story set during World War I, but it is told by Aphrodite to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. Lovely War was such a unique book, and I loved it so much.

22. A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum: I absolutely loved this book, and I highly recommend the audio. The story takes us through the lives of conservative Arab women living in America. I felt so invested in the characters and their lives. It is ultimately a very sad story, but one that I think of often. It’s beautifully written, and I haven’t seen a bad review yet. 

23. The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave: This book is set in a 1600s Norwegian coastal village where a terrible storm has killed off all the island’s men. The women have to learn how to survive and deal with the men who are sent to rid the community of alleged witchcraft. It is inspired by real events, and I love a witch trial story. It’s heart-wrenching and beautiful, and definitely one I really enjoyed. 

24. The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton: A detective duo, a leper, a demon in the form of Old Tom, a crew of murderers and cutthroats—what could go wrong? This one felt very Sherlock Holmes meets Pirates of the Caribbean, and I loved it so much. The writing is outstanding, and I loved all of the characters. 

25. Betty by Tiffany McDaniel: My FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR. Betty blew me away with its detailed writing, poignant story, and unforgettable characters. It’s set in the foothills of the Appalachians which is a character of its own. As the story unfolds, family secrets of abuse, shame, and mental illness are brought to the light. The audiobook made the story even more enjoyable for me, and out of all the books I have read this year, I think about Betty the most. 

Do you share any of Caroline's 2020 favorites?
I'm pleased a few of my recs made her list!
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