This year I refreshed my goal from 2019 and said I’d read 24 books by the end of the year, and there were weeks (read: months) where I had no energy to read and then there were weeks that I read three books from Sunday and Saturday. If you choose to purchase any of these books I just ask that you shop indie and/ or Black Owned. This year has aged us all and with that I hope we’ve all gained some wisdom along the way. Without further ado, here are all the books I read this year:
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens | ★★★★★
This was hands down the most beautifully written book I’ve ever read. Because this book was so beautifully written that’s what truly kept me engaged in the story. The most neck snapping things happen in about the last 50 pages, so if you’re a person that likes to read the last page of the book (like I am) I strongly suggest you pause your ritual. I still catch myself thinking about it as I do my normal day to day activities. This story follows Kya (aka the Marsh Girl) and the two officers who are investigating the murder of a southern good ‘ole boy. It’s switches seamlessly between the “present” (1980s) and how Kya grew up which explains why she is the way she is. The detail is so amazing that you feel like you’re traversing the marsh alongside her through all her years isolated from the main town. This book will absolutely take your breath away.
The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory | ★★★☆☆
I’m not even sure the best way to describe this book. This is definitely not a book I’ll be screaming to recommend by any means, but if you’re into reading some really creepy books (like me) and you need something absolutely cheesy where you know what’s going to happen in the first 5 pages then by all means this is the book for you. The writing style seemed a bit amateur, and the characters were pretty cringey, but it’s still overall a cute book. The novel follows Nikole and Carlos as they attempt to be just friends, who just casually hook up every other day…
Sidebar: Nikole is a Black woman, and at one point there was a conversation that almost had too much emphasis that she was Black near the end of the book, and it almost seemed like pandering and over the top.
The Woman In the Window by A.J. Finn | ★★★★★
Let me just start off by saying that next to dystopian novels, psychological thrillers are my favorite genre. They have the suspense I like and it feels like one of my true crime shows playing out in my head. The Woman in the Window is THE BEST psychological thriller I’ve read since my beloved Behind Closed Doors back in 2018. This story is about Dr. Anna Fox who in the last year has developed a severe case of agoraphobia (which is the fear of places that cause helplessness, usually the outdoors) in this case Dr. Anna Fox never leaves her house. This story had everything. Everyone is a suspect until the very end, you don’t know who to trust, and you don’t know which way to look. The writing style is phenomenal it feels like you’re really inside Anna’s head. You feel what she feels and you think what she thinks. The twists where *chefs kiss* absolutely brilliant. I can’t wait to see what more this author has in store.
Oligarchy by Scarlett Thomas | ★★★☆☆
This book is definitely for a specific kind of person, and I am not that specific kind of person. The writing style is different than anything I have ever read. It’s in 3rd person sort of, and there’s so many characters that you have a hard time keeping up with the character narration changes and who the girls are. It reads like a weird indie movie that could have been filmed in 3 days. This book starts off with Natasha (Tash) being sent to an all girls boarding school in the UK from Russia where her dad is an Oligarch. It switches between the narrative of about 6 different girls who are also at the boarding school; who are are all struggling with anorexia without really realizing it? My biggest issue with this book was the introduction of topics and objects that didn’t bring any sort of substance to the story. They either didn’t actually serve a purpose to the ending or did anything for anyone throughout the book. It just seems like this was a book that someone wanted to write for fun and then it accidentally got published and accidentally got sent to major bookstores nationwide.
American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson | ★★★☆☆
American Spy is told as a ~story that needs to be told~ and is written from the point of view of Marie who is a Black woman in the 80s working for the FBI. The novel is written as a journal detailing her life for her twin boys about why she must leave them to go hunt down the person who is trying to kill her. Now that seems like a whirlwind of a tale, but really you don’t get much action and feel somewhat empty on characters and situations that were brought into the story. This book is a little difficult for me to review. On one hand I did like the writing and how informed it was, but I had a hard time keeping up with all the characters introduced, the amount of acronyms used, and the unfinished stories that were used to build the plots. I feel like there was so much more the story could have brought to the table, and the plot twists were somewhat predictable if you’ve seen any spy movie.
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman | ★★★★★
I’m very late to the game with this read, and I’m so happy that I finally jumped in. This was the most beautiful love story I’ve ever read, and I can’t wait to reread it. This novel is narrated by Elio many years in the future as he looks back on the summer he met Oliver, the American grad student who lives with them for 6 weeks. Because of this narration there aren’t a lot of conversations, but rather you get the full scope of how he feels and all the thoughts that ran through his mind all those years ago. The writing is so beautiful and it shows how in love he was with Oliver almost from the first time he met him through the next 20 years. This story is so profound and for anyone who’s ever been loved someone with their entire being you very quickly understand the weight of love through his writing. “’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” -Alfred Lord Tennyson
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams | ★★★★★
Have you ever read a book and in the middle of it you thought “Was this author in my head? How could she possibly know that’s what it feels like?” Queenie is me, and I am Queenie. This book was everything I needed for a Black Bridgett Jones’ Diary, and more. Queenie is a 25 year old with a great boyfriend, a great job, and great friends. As all great things must come to an end soon these three pillars in her life start crumbling and as she’s trying to fix one another one falls and pattern continues. She is getting pelted from every angle of life, and through the support of her family and friends she overcomes these incredibly tough times. This is a great book for anyone wanting to read about what it’s like for a black millennial in the workplace, looking for love, and sustaining friendships. This book hits on so many key elements of the black family structure as well as having friends with different ethnic backgrounds.
Beach Read by Emily Henry | ★★★★★
This book has been EVERYWHERE the last couple of months so I obviously had to see what all the excitement was about, and I was not let down. This book had everything… cults, mistresses, love, cheesy dates, and the list goes on. This had all the makings of a fierce love story wrapped up in a messy bow and sealed with a flame that never burned out. This novel follows January Andrews and Augustus Everett who are former college ~rivals~ turned neighbors for the summer. Both are accomplished authors, both are being dragged through the mud by life, and both are stuck in some of the worst writers block either have ever had. It’s safe to say this story makes you want to move to a lake town and never leave (at least that’s what I’m planning on doing).
I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones | ★★★★★
This was literally unputdownable. This story follows Lena and Campbell through an absolutely unforgettable night. These two barely know of each other before this night begins and by the end they have formed a bond that is 1000% unbreakable. Everything in this story happens in one single night. From a football game turned brawl turned shooting to having to navigate one of Atlanta’s busiest streets in the middle of a protest turned riot. I think this book captured perfectly what’s it’s like to grow up Black in America and on the other hand shows how it is to grow up white in America. These two girls have two drastically different views on everything in life; expect one… wanting to survive the night. This book is a must if you’re wanting to understand the Black experience from a teenagers point of view. This book landed on my TBR list after watching a viral video of one of the authors (Kimberly Jones) beautifully comparing the last 400 years of oppression to 400 games of Monopoly where you’re basically forced to lose every. single. time. I highly recommend everyone see this 6 minute video.
The Last Flight by Julie Clark | ★★★★☆
You might be thinking “now why would a flight attendant be reading a book called ‘The Last Flight’ and my simple answer for you is that I’m absolutely insane. I’ll admit it took me a while to finish this one, and I’m so mad that it did. Every story line in this book is beautifully intertwined and is sealed with a bow. I’m so impressed with the twists and turns of this book, and how you were completely sure of everyone in the book; until you weren’t. The Last Flight follows two women – Eva and Claire – in the weeks leading up to and after “The Crash” that changed the course of both their lives forever. Eva is living a double life in Berkeley, CA and wanting to run away from both, and Claire Cook is fielding the abuse of her husband who is running for Senator. Both women are desperate to get out of both of their situations that they’ll do something absolutely insane to achieve it.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia | ★★★★★
This book took me MONTHS to finish, and it was all due to my absolute lack of willpower to just pick up the book when I was home. I say that because every single time I picked it up I’d steamroll through like 50 pages. I took this book on a flight home and didn’t look up from it for about 3 hours. With that said… This book made me cringe, made my body recoil, made my toes curl, and had my stomach twisting. And the moment this becomes a movie I’ll be the first in line. If you’re okay with some folklore gory reading. This needs to be your next read. The author did an incredible job mending past reality with Mother Nature into a beautiful tale. This story follows Noemí who is a young socialite from Mexico City who is sent to High Place to check in on her favorite cousin after receiving a dangerously concerning letter. Once she arrives she never feels like she’s wanted, but feels she’s always being watched even when no one is around. The twists and turns that follow can only be unveiled while reading. Would not recommend reading at bight before bed. [This book was up for a GoodReads award for best Horror, so take that as you will.]
The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany by Lori Nelson Spielman | ★★★★★
Speaking as someone who hasn’t stayed in one place longer than a week for the last year and a half this book nestled itself into every crevice of longing I had to go travel. I was so captivated by the story and the places they were traveling I forgot we were in the middle of pandemic. This story follows Emilia who has spent most of her life believing and being told that as the second born daughter she was cursed and will never find love and happiness. However, her Aunt Poppy has some choice words about that and invites Emilia and her cousin Lucy (another second born daughter in the family) on a week long trip through Italy with the promise that by the end of the week the curse will be broken. I absolutely loved following the story of Emilia breaking out of her shell and Aunt Poppy’s carefree spirit about life. This story is written from the point of view of Emilia at present, and Aunt Poppy in 1960s Italy. My only wish was that we were able to see the trip from Lucy’s point of view as she has a tremendous turn around from beginning to end, however, I totally understand why the author only focused on Emilia and Aunt Poppy. Definitely add this to your TBR list. It will not disappoint.
Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein | ★★★★☆
It’s hard for me to put into words what this story boils down to, because yes, boy likes girl and girl like boy back… However, this had some incredibly deep and complex points and issues that the characters had to work through. Which I absolutely love, but it’s hard to summarize it into one sentence. I’ll say this: The author wrote this book so that it would be published in time for the 2020 Olympics, then COVID-19 happened. She also dedicated this book to all the athletes who were brave enough to speak about their abuse from the USA Gymnastics Team and Larry Nassar. I have to applaud the author on her ability to brings these topics to the novel without overstepping. If you are a fan of watching Olympic Gymnastics, like I am, I would absolutely add this book to your list. It goes into a lot of details that I would have never crossed my mind as an observer of the sport. The stress and pressure these young men and women put on themselves and their families at such a young age is astounding, and moreover the fact that they train to do this from such a young age with only one maybe two chances at the Olympics is mind blowing. This story follows Avery who is former elite gymnast who lost her shot to be on the Olympic team due to a career ending knee injury just weeks before the 2012 Olympic Games. She ends up having to move back to her hometown, and is presented with a new opportunity: help the new up and coming gymnast perfect her skills to get her on the Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020 alongside a male gymnast she grew up with. What unfolds from there is absolutely beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time. I sit here unable to form a full sentence about this book because it makes me incredibly sad that awful these happen to these teenagers and young women, but on the other hand I’m in absolute awe of the physical ability of gymnasts around the world.
Holidaze by Christina Lauren | ★★★★☆
In this house we are Christina Lauren STAAAANS. I loved this book, as well as the two I read from her last year. She is absolutely amazing at creating love stories, and pure romance and heartbreak and spice and… you get the point. It may be predictable, but sometimes that’s what we need in a time like this. In A Holidaze follows Maelyn Jones as she’s stuck in a Groundhog’s Day loop and has to keep reliving her week long holiday at the family cabin. Yes, it is favorite week of the year, but trying to get through it without dying and being sent back to seat 19B is harder than you think. I resonated a lot with this character, solely based on the fact that we’re both 26 and having existential crises at the same time. Also the guy shes had a crush on most of her life has the same name as my Kindergarten crush. I hope he’s doing well, now that I think about it 😅 This is a great holiday read if you need to escape from the family for a few hours.
Honorable Mention: Twilight
I woke up one morning, looked at my bookshelf, grabbed this book, and read the whole thing in one day. Sometimes we just need an escape right?
For 2021 I’m going to try again for 24 books, and hopefully I’ll hit it. One of these years I will… 😅