Tales & Tiger Lily: 2020 Favorites

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!

1 comment

  1. So fun to see Caroline's favorite books (and I'm definitely taking note of some of these titles that sound particularly interesting to me)! Pleased to see a lot of books I've loved or enjoyed on this list ;)


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