Wow. What a year.
2020 will no doubt go down as one for the history books, and while I initially considered writing about all the spectacular and sucky occurrences in my life this year, I decided to spare you and stick with my traditional “Year in Books” post instead. And this year, I’m doing something special (which I think will be the start of a new tradition, actually): a book giveaway for one of my favorite 2020 reads! More on that in a bit though . . .
In all honesty, I didn’t read as many books as I wanted to this year. It was especially difficult to find extra time in the spring as I was adjusting to my two kids being home full time, working to complete edits on my debut novel, Not Our Summer, and continuing with my freelance work. Summer wasn’t much easier and honestly, fall wasn’t either, but I did manage to make some headway with my TBR pile. And now for your viewing pleasure, here’s a little genre breakdown on what I read this year before I introduce each book:
Surprise, surprise: the majority of the books I read were Young Adult Contemporary, which is the genre I write in! Without further ado, here they are:
Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl (YA Contemporary Romance)
I started out my year with a super humorous book by a writer I’ve followed on Twitter for a while now. This was Sonia’s debut (though she’s since published another title and has at least one more book on the way). But Have a Little Faith in Me was a gem. I laughed. I swooned. I laughed some more. And I really enjoyed this friends-to-lovers story.
Far From the Tree by Robin Benway (YA Contemporary)
I hadn’t heard of this one until an agent who read my novel (Not Our Summer) said it reminded her of this book. So I grabbed a copy and got to reading. Far From the Tree does share some similarities with my book as far as the “found family” and “heartfelt” aspects go. It’s also just a really great story as well as a National Book Award winner.
Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Myer (YA Paranormal Romance)
If you read my 2019 “Year in Books” post, you’ll know that last year, I decided to reread the entire Twilight saga just for $hits and giggles (and because I may or may not be extremely fond of this saga). Well, this was me finishing up that task, and in case you’re wondering, yes, I enjoyed rereading this final book of the series for the probably the third or fourth time. But who’s counting really?
You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn (YA Contemporary Romance)
I’ve followed Erin for a while on Twitter, so I decided to pick up her debut novel and let me tell you, this gal can write. You’d Be Mine was a super swoon-y, smartly-written book about two star-crossed, up-and coming country music stars (both fictional), and I enjoyed it immensely.
Twilight (audio version) by Stephenie Meyer (YA Paranormal Romance)
Why? you may be asking. Why would I read Twilight yet again (or rather listen to the audio version in this case)? Well, for one, listening to the audio of a book can be a very different experience than just reading it, but two, maybe I had an uncanny premonition that Stephenie Meyer would be soon be dropping the biggest fun bomb ever onto an extremely craptastic year–that is releasing Edward’s version of this exact story. But more on that in a minute . . .
Michigan vs. the Boys by Carrie Allen (YA Contemporary)
Carrie is another writer I follow on Twitter and she also happens to make up half of the Pitchwars mentor team that requested my manuscript two years in a row. We’ve interacted quite a bit since then, so of course, I wanted to read her sporty girl debut, Michigan vs. the Boys. This was a fun book, but it also delved into some serious topics such as sexual assault and harassment (which is similar to my current work-in-progress). And despite having a husband who plays hockey, I learned quite a bit about the sport, thanks to this book. There’s also a nice romantic subplot that I quite enjoyed.
Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan (YA Contemporary Romance)
This book came highly recommended by a podcast host and agent that I really admire, and while I thought it was cute and fun and humorous, unfortunately, I didn’t dig Hot Dog Girl as much as he did. That said, it’s still a worthy read.
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (Adult Fiction)
If I had to pick one adult work of fiction to read for the year, I’m really glad I picked this one. Where the Crawdads Sing is a beautifully-written story about a girl who’s always felt more at home in nature than in society (which I can relate to). It’s also a cleverly written murder mystery which kept me guessing right up until the end. I highly recommend this book if you haven’t already read it!
Lady Long Rider by Bernice Ende (Memoir)
This book was a gift from a company I blog for (in exchange for being a guest on their podcast), and let me tell you, what an unexpected and pleasant surprise it was! I love a good memoir, and I adored reading about Bernice’s amazing story as a Lady Long Rider, aka a woman who has ridden thousand and thousands of miles cross country while horseback. Bernice also happens to be a talented story teller, and I know, without a doubt, this is one I’ll be rereading.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo (Non-Fiction)
Since so many events occurred this year which brought racial injustice to the forefront of our awareness, I realized I still had a lot to learn regarding this issue, so I decided to start with White Fragility. Robin works as an antiracist educator and shares some extremely interesting and important personal experiences which really inspire you to stop and consider your deepest held beliefs about race and equality.
100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith (YA Contemporary)
I think I picked this one up at a library sale and the only reason it intrigued me was the upside down horse on the cover. 100 Sideways Miles is an interesting exploration of unique story telling, but I can’t say I thoroughly enjoyed it. I did, however, finish it because I wanted to add it on this list. *shrug*
Dear Bones by Anne Stubert (YA Contemporary)
The reason you haven’t heard of this one is because it’s not out yet! In fact, this was my one and only beta read for the year. Anne is a dear writing friend who has provided brilliant feedback for me in the past, so I was attempting to return the favor. Without giving anything away here, I can say with full confidence that this is a great book which will likely be hitting the shelves soon! Anne’s main character pries his way into your heart and then stays there long after you’ve finished reading.
Between the World and Me (audio version) by Ta Naheesi Coates (Memoir)
Between the World and Me came highly recommended by several writer friends, and it’s an important book for understanding the racial divide in our country, as told through one man’s eyes. The author is the narrator of the audiobook, and he did an excellent job of portraying his own story. It’s as eye-opening and thought-provoking as it is necessary. Highly recommend this National Book Award winner.
The Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (YA Contemporary)
This is a fairly well-known book by a fairly well known YA author. I’m not sure why I picked it up exactly, except for maybe the fact that the title was quite intriguing. I’ve never read a book where the ending is so freely given away, and while it’s an interesting concept, I had trouble getting into the story. I did, however, keep reading because I wanted to know HOW the main characters would die at the end, and I wanted to add They Both Die at the End to my reading list. *another shrug*
Midnight Sun by Stephenie Myer (YA Paranormal Romance)
Three events saved 2020 for me, and I can say, without a doubt, that the surprise release of Midnight Sun was one of them. The Twilight saga are comfort books and movies for me, ones I enjoy reading or watching over and over again. The world learned only a few months beforehand about the release of Midnight Sun, aka Edward’s version of Twilight, on August 4th, and it truly gave me something to look forward to this year. Even though my preordered book arrived a week late due to USPS delays, I was thrilled when I finally received it. And yes, I’m that dork who prepares a special pomegranate beverage and fancy snacks to celebrate reading a book such as this.
Hot British Boyfriend by Kristy Boyce (YA Contemporary Romance)
Being a debut author is so amazingly cool, especially since I’m a part of a whole group of YA and MG debut authors and we get to be the first to read each other’s books! Hot British Boyfriend is one I’d had my eye on for a while because who doesn’t want to read about hot British boyfriends!?? This was a fun and adorable read, and I loved traveling to England with the main character, Ellie. I was also pleasantly surprised by the romantic twist near the end. Releases February 9, 2021 but available for preorder now!
More Than Maybe by Erin Hahn (YA Contemporary Romance)
Since I really enjoyed Erin’s debut novel (You’d Be Mine), I decided to grab her sophomore book as well. If you need a lesson in “How to write YA dialogue”, I recommend this book for that alone, but if you’re simply into reading about well-developed characters and like a good slow burn romance, I’m pretty sure you’ll love this More Than Maybe, too.
As Many Nows As I Can Get by Shana Youngdahl (YA Contemporary)
This was a re-read for me, and I can definitely say it’s one of my favorite contemporary books ever. I won an ARC (advanced reading copy) of As Many Nows As I Can Get in 2019 and was blown away by not only Shana’s writing, but also her ability to tell a story in a non-linear and totally mesmerizing way. Amazing author, amazing writing, and amazing story.
Speak (audio version) by Laurie Halse Anderson (YA Contemporary)
Though this book has been around for a few years, I wanted to read Speak because it’s essentially about a girl who’s endured sexual assault and harassment, which is similar to my work-in-progress. It’s a fairly well-known story and also a movie (which I intend to watch at some point) and an important book for any teen (or adult ) to read. I also enjoyed the main character’s witty voice.
The Last Windwitch by Jennifer Adam (Middle Grade Fantasy)
This is another 2021 debut novel and, incidentally, the only middle grade novel I read this year. In our debut group, I had asked about books with horses since I plan on writing an article showcasing some of them for a horse publication at some point, and Jennifer relayed that her story had horses and then sent the ARC to me! Though I don’t often read fantasy (let alone, MG fantasy), I was blown away by her gorgeous prose and captivated by chapter one. I know many a kid will enjoy The Last Windwitch. Releases April 13, 2021 but available for preorder now!
You Can Tell a Horse Anything by Mary Koncel (Poetry Collection)
The author of this book is a researcher I’ve worked with on several articles (about mustang horses) and she was kind enough to send me her book of poetry. The type of poetry Mary writes is unlike anything I’ve ever read before (contemporary, maybe?) but I enjoyed reading this collection. Each poem in You Can Tell a Horse Anything was its own little thought-provoking story, and I read each at least twice, and some more than that in order to digest them.
Today, Tonight, Tomorrow (audio) by Rachel Lynn Solomon (YA Contemporary Romance)
This is another author I’ve followed on Twitter for a while, and I read her debut novel (You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone) a couple years ago. She, too, is a fantastic writer and quite a few people were talking about this book, so when I saw the audio version marked way down on Chirp (great audiobook app, btw!), I snatched it up. I have to say I adored Today, Tonight, Tomorrow. Rachel is a master at writing dialogue, and aside from her amazing characters, I also loved the attention to setting, which happens to be in one my favorite places–the Pacific Northwest.
The Half-Orphan’s Handbook by Joan Smith
This is the third 2021 debut I read this year and wow, what a touching story. I loved the summer camp setting (which I could totally relate to), the sweet romance, and reading about the main character’s journey of dealing with the trauma of losing a parent to suicide. The Half-Orphan’s Handbook is another story where the characters stuck with me after finishing the book. Releases April 6, 2021 but available for preorder now!
Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins (YA Contemporary Romance)
My last book of the year was yet another great one: a retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. Jacqueline is an author I recently met through Instagram, and aside from being an amazing writer, she’s also a very talented costume designer. (Seriously, check out her work.) Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things reads like a contemporary story but has elements of classic literature which was fun to see. Firkins is truly a clever writer, and I found myself stopping and rereading certain lines because they were just that good. If you’re a fan of romance or the classics, you’ll want to check this book out.
And finally, here’s the news you’ve been waiting for: the book giveaway I’m doing is for Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things by Jacqueline Firkins. I bought an extra copy just for this reason!
The giveaway begins now and will go through January 1st, 2021. At that point, I’ll pick one random winner from the comments on this post, on Twitter, Facebook, and also Instagram. To enter, simply comment below with the title of your favorite 2020 read!
You can also enter by commenting on my Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram post about this giveaway but will also need to share the original post if you enter via social media. Please only comment once, and you must be a U.S. resident to win. Good luck!
Note: This post contains affiliate links which means I make a small percentage from sales if you choose to purchase books from the links provided.