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broodings from the burrow

March 9, 2021

best reads of 2020
posted by soe 1:14 am

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic at That Artsy Reader Girl is a spring cleaning freebie, so I took the opportunity to finish off this draft that’s been sitting around for months.

I think I mentioned that for the first time in several years I didn’t hit my book-a-week target in 2020. However, I did finish 40, nearly all of which were new to me.

Here are my favorites from that group:

  1. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune: A lonely, middle-aged, good-hearted social worker specializing in children with magical abilities is asked by the heads of his governmental bureau to check out a care facility and evaluate its caretaker. There is shadiness involved (the case files are provided in a very James Bondian way), and when Linus reaches the end of the train line, he discovers the care facility is located on an island in the ocean (which he’s long hoped to see), the six children in question include a wyvern, a were-Pomeranian, and the son of Satan (who, it turns out, shares a love of vintage vinyl with Lionel), and the caretaker is a most charming man. This is a story about acceptance and trust and found families and doing what needs doing, no matter how scary or hard that is. Recommended for everyone, even those who don’t traditionally read fantasy.
  2. Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts by Kate Racculia: In this Westing Game-like book for adults, Tuesday and her wacky companions race to solve a game set forth as the final wish of an eccentric local millionaire. See my review here.
  3. The Art of Theft by Sherry Thomas: In the latest (at the time) story of Lady Sherlock, Charlotte, Livia, Mrs. Watson, Lord Ingram, and Stephen Marbleton must team up for an art heist in France. See my review here.
  4. Meg and Jo by Virginia Kantra: This is a modern interpretation of a favorite story, focused on the two oldest adult March sisters. Meg is a stay-at-home mom of young twins who is trying to help her mom keep their North Carolina family farm afloat. Jo works in a NYC restaurant by day and as a food blogger on the down low by night. When their mom gets sick, they’ll struggle find how to remain true to themselves, but never with how to be true to each other. (Amy and Beth comes out this spring.)
  5. New Kid by Jerry Craft: In this award-winning graphic novel, Craft tells the tale of Jordan, whose parents have decided he should leave the NYC neighborhood middle school he’s attended up until now and start attending a prep school across town where he’s one of a handful of kids of color. (He was okay with going to a new school, but he’d really hoped for art school.) The book covers the trials and tribulations of his 7th-grade year, from the microaggressions he deals with from teachers and students, the friends he makes (and the ones from the neighborhood he struggles to keep), and interactions with his parents and his beloved grandfather. See my review here.
  6. The Flat Share by Beth O’Leary: After breaking up with her boyfriend, Tiffy is desperate to find an affordable apartment fast. Enter Leon, who works nights and who is equally desperate to raise some fast cash to pay the lawyer handling his brother’s appeal. He offers a unique arrangement — they become roommates, but don’t meet. He’ll get the apartment during the day and she’ll get it at night and on weekends. They communicate via sticky notes to sort out the usual roommate questions, and start to get to know one another. A really great read for the start of the pandemic, when we were all struggling with how to connect with people we couldn’t see IRL and a surprisingly deep read, as it deals with abusive relationships, lost loves, and racist aspects of the criminal justice system.
  7. How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Eason: Sleeping Beauty meets Star Wars. The princess of a planet, anointed at birth with a variety of gifts by fairies, is sent to marry the prince of another planet in an agreement to end a war. However, she has thoughts about this (particularly after she discovers a plot against her betrothed’s life). Fun feminist sci fi, at its best.
  8. I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal: Told from alternating perspectives, Lena has spent her entire life in this Atlanta neighborhood, while Campbell is a recent transplant, come to live with her dad, a struggling hardware store owner, after her mom is forced to take a job abroad. One fateful night, shots are fired at a football game and these two teenagers, one Black, the other White, flee together with a single working cell phone between them, must navigate getting home safely when chaos and violence erupt on their streets. I read this at the start of the summer as people took to the streets around the country, demanding an end to racist policing and policies.
  9. Girl with a Gun by Amy Stewart: Historical fiction focusing on the eldest of three Kopp sisters, who would go on to become the first female deputy sheriff in America. See my review here.
  10. Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley: A young man discovers his parents are considering selling the beloved family bookstore and a young woman returns to her roots in an effort to move on in the wake of a terrible accident. See my review here.

Honorable mentions go to Mira Jacobs’ Good Talk, Dan Gemeinhart’s The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise, Red Letter Days by Sarah-Jane Stratford, and Yes, No, Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed.

(Confidential to IRL loved ones: If I also owe you a Christmas gift from this year, please don’t suddenly start reading off this list, because those gifts are all sitting around my living room and it’s too late to return them.)

Random stats for the year:

Nonfiction: 3
Graphic novels: 7
Books from a series: 17 (includes two series where I read two books)
Books in a translation: 2
Authors of color: 11
Authors’ nationality: American, Canadian, British, Australian, German, Norwegian
Books I borrowed from the library: 33
Books written by men: 8
Books written for adults: 25
For YA: 5
For kids: 10

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