I know I’m a bit late to this party since it’s the semi-finals now. But in case you’re on the fence about what to vote for, or even just want to know my thoughts on the semi-finals, please enjoy! I am going to talk about some of my absolute favorites in each category, plus some on my TBR!
Books I’ve Read:
- Such a Fun Age. This was the most recent book club pick for my local club. It’s a fast paced story about white saviors and racism.
And, predictably so, I have so many more of this category on my TBR. Let me know if you’ve read them and I should bump them up my TBR.
- Transcendant Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. I’ve read Homegoing and I really liked it, so I’m excited for this one.
- Luster by Raven Leilani. Talk about a book I only wanted to read because of all the Instagram posts I saw about this one! Are you also guilty of this?
- If I Had Your Face by Frances Cha. This is just another example of a book by an Asian voice that I wanted to read, but didn’t get to.
Which brings me to a category in adult fiction where I read the most! I am so proud of myself for reading more adult books than last year. I know it’s still a very small amount, but it still felt like more!
- The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin. I will always love Jemisin’s work and this one is no exception. Magic meets NYC. It’s a story about identity and sacrifice. Definitely different than the other books from Jemisin I’ve read, but a series I am in love with and looking forward to in the future.
- The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. You know those books which you are in love with the premise? That’s me and this book. It takes a while to unfurl, but it’s deeeply rooted in character and premise. The idea of immortality is one that consistently intrigues me – specifically the burden and costs of immortality.
- The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart. This multiple POV novel is one where I became instantly hooked around 2/3 of the way through. Before that it’s a bit of a slow lead up, because there’s quite a few POV, but once it started moving I loved it. I can’t wait for the sequel!
- Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo. This has to be my favorite novella this year (so far). I love stories with bards and this one is that plus all the queerness! It’s a story about stories and the impact we leave behind.
- The Burning God by R.F. Kuang. What could I say about this finale? Just know that it is as heart destroying as you might expect, and you’ll love it. The finale to The Poppy War trilogy, this was a fave of mine before I even read it.
- Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. I’m writing my review of this one today, so you won’t find a review yet. But this one was such a fantastic example of world building meets great pacing meets multiple POV. I listened to the audio of this one and had to stop myself from just abandoning my TBR.
Other books you’ll find there but not ones I’ll endorse: A Deadly Education – talk about a book that did not hook me even if you look past the racism – and House of Earth and Blood – which I read and enjoyed but was way too overhyped for my taste.
On my TBR:
- House on the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune. I don’t know a single person who has read this and not loved it.
This year has been the year for Romance. I’ve read so many more than ever before and so I am READY for this category.
- Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner. This queer romcom about the entertainment business was so sweet. I wanted a bit more character development from it in some aspects, but I really loved reading it!
- Take a Hint Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert. I have been a huge fan of the Brown Sisters series since Chloe and I’ll read them basically forever. Talk about a new favorite romance author from the last few years. These books are steamy with fabulous characters!
- Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall. I loved the enemies/hate/dislike to romance here so much. Give me good banter any day and I laughed out loud here for these disaster precious characters.
- You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria. This one was STEAMY! I loved the chemistry that flew off the pages. Family, ambition, and dreams all combine in this romance which will make you swoon. I want an adaptation of this one!
- Beach Read by Emily Henry. I so heavily resonated with the MCs in this one. Talk about a woman who’s become disillusioned with the lies we tell each other. And a cynic who’s been burned by love. This is one of those romance books where the characters just swept me away.
And the TBR!
- Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade. I want to read this fanfiction-esque romance!
Another adult fiction category I feel good about!
- Network Effect by Martha Wells. I love the Murderbot stories so much and this full length novel was fantastic. We’re able to dive into Murderbot’s decisions, to see the character evolution *chef’s kiss* If you haven’t read this series yet, start it!
- The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson. I loved this unique and queer SF about privilege and manipulation. It’s also one of those books that made me gasp aloud! A fabulous example of how SF can discuss questions of privilege and racism all wrapped up in parallel universe tech.
- Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi. This novella is one that defies words for me. I read this so long ago, but the sheer sense of wonder and admiration after finishing have never left me. I love Onyebuchi’s world building and this novella was an examination of rage and justice.
And my TBR
- The First Sister by Linden A. Lewis. If R.F. Kuang 5 starred a book, I have to read it. I don’t make the rules, okay?
This year I surprised myself and actually read books from this genre!
- The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson. If you love stories about women kicking the patriarchy in the ass and witches, then you need to read this one. It’s one about agency and realizing that only we can save ourselves.
- Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. You know those stories that made your skin crawl? That was this one for me. It’s so richly atmospheric and detailed that you will need to take a shower afterwards. I also love the MC who is courageous and loves her beautiful dresses.
- The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. Even to this day, I’m not sure what I read. It’s one of those books where the line between reality and something more than reality is blurred. Tackling the way we think we may have put something behind us, Jones shows us that it will never stay buried. Our ghosts will always haunt us.
On my TBR even though I didn’t know it was horror….
- Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark. I’ve read a few of Clark’s novellas this year and loved them. So I figured I needed to add this to my TBR.
I wasn’t expecting to know more than one here, but I surprised myself.
- The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen. I will not stop screaming about how fabulous this is until you all read it. Talk about a queer middle grade graphic novel about identity and the power of seeing ourselves in stories. It is AMAZING.
On my TBR, but I’m sure I’ll love:
- Monstress. I love all the Monstress comics. Talk about a gorgeous and detailed world building with political manipulation and stunning drawings.
- Check Please Vol. 2. I loved Vol.1 full of baking, hockey, and queer romance. This is one of those graphic novels that makes my heart feel so full and happy.
This category has a ton of repeats, so if I’ve already described it, find the description in the dedicated category.
- Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. Found in Adult fiction.
- Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko. This is a story about having to figure out who we want to be. We can be trained our whole life for something and, when it comes down to it, realize we never wanted it from the beginning. I loved that there was a ton of action to this story, but that it’s also focused on our journey for agency.
- Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart. Found in Adult Fantasy.
- Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. These characters are my precious cinnamon buns. This is a story about second chances, about trying to be seen for who we are, and the power of love. If you love YA fantasy and don’t mind ghosts/spirits, then you have to read this – if you haven’t already.
- The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson. Found in Adult Horror.
Young Adult Fiction
And the category where I expect to know the most. I’ve read 11 of the 20. That’s over 50%
- You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson. Talk about a book where you want to scream with happiness at the end. It’s a charming queer story about a girl’s prom queen campaign. And it’s feel good on all levels, while still calling out the racism she faces.
- Tweet Cute by Emma Lord. If you like those stories about mistaken identities and romance across enemy lines – then you gotta read this one. It’s cute about family differences and new love.
- Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo. Talk about my favorite Acevedo book – and I’ve read them all! This dual POV verse novel is all about family secrets and pursuing our dreams. What will our family look like after all the secrets are brought to light?
- Today, Tonight, Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon. I am so happy that Solomon’s book made it! Talk about witty and quick banter with enemies to lovers. This one is a love letter to unexpectec situations and Seattle.
- Yes, No, Maybe So by Becky Albertali and Aisha Saeed. I am so here for all the political YA novels and this is one of my favorite. It’s about making a difference, fighting for a better future and against hatred and intolerance – with some of my favorite YA authors.
- Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram. This sequel made it to the list, even though it’s the only sequel, with good reason. It’s an introspective book about figuring out what we really want when we have it. We can think, “I’ll be happy when…”, but what happens when that day comes and we aren’t?
- The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar. I loved this debut so much! What a precious story about enemies to lovers, but also about having to look at our choices. The consequences of them, the ways they hurt people without meaning to, and how we can fix our mistakes.
- Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales. Do you want a queer Grease retelling? If the answer is yes then you have your wish! This one has tons of heart as it discusses the challenges of summer romance, and returning back when you aren’t out yet.
- Grown by Tiffany Jackson. A powerful book I needed to have when I was a teen. This story is about toxic relationships, when we think we can handle it, and the slow journey to being in over our head. It’s about power, manipulation, and the strength of our voice.
- Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. I loved listening to this audiobook about figuring out our identity. About thinking we’re done processing, done figuring out who we are – and then realizing we’re far from done. And that’s okay.
- Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez. This book took me by storm. Full of soccer and determination, this is a story about pursuing our dreams. It’s a story about femicide and sexism. I wasn’t prepared for how much I would love this one, even never being a fan of soccer, but I love it.
On my TBR
- The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Having read Barnes’ previous series, Little White Lies I’ve had Barnes on my radar. And now this is just another one to add to the list.
- Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam. I’ve enjoyed every one of Zoboi’s books and I cannot wait for this dynamic duo.
YA SF and Fantasy
I am READY for this category. I’ve read 10 out of 20 again! Is that the magic number?
- Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas. Found in Debut.
- All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace. Give me all the mermaids with fangs. Talk about a book that just hooked me with one word – mermaid. But seriously, I am very excited for the sequel because the characters were also fabulous and the world is one I want to spend more time in!
- Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust. Um I read this book in 2019 and have loved it ever since. It’s a queer fantasy about monstrosity and love. About needing to stop seeing ourselves as monstrous. Of the power of love to inspire us and lend courage.
- Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Considering the ending of the first, I had huge hopes for this one – which were only sort of met. This is one of the rare ones where the review isn’t here, even though I read it. I listened to the audio, which I highly recommend because they are full casts, but 2/3 of the book kind of lost me? The end made up for a lot, but it was also really such a cliff hanger that I’ll read the next, but more begrudgingly. I still really enjoy the found family and crew – which is what keeps getting me – but yeah.
- The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu. This might be my favorite of Lu’s books ever. It’s her only historical fantasy, but it’s a beautiful story about a girl’s ambition in a world that won’t recognize her. A story about the bonds of siblings and all the contributions that are lost to the patriarchy.
- Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko. Found in Debut.
- Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron. We want all the queer fairy tale re-tellings please. This one is all about bringing down the patriarchy in an almost dystopian world for queer and poor people. It’s a book you will want to finish in one sitting so your rage doesn’t consume you.
- A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown. I’m always on the look out for series to start and this should make your list. It’s a story about the power we have, and what will we do for what we love. Even though our two MCs seem so different, there’s the undercurrents of familial love and the need for sacrifice running through their veins. It’s a fabulous fantasy series beginner!
- Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. King Arthur meets magic meets Southern Black Girl Magic. What I loved about this book is the ways Deonn is able to explore what it means to be the Chosen One. And the elitism in magic and these systems of power and legacy. Who gets to be a legacy?
- These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. And even though this one isn’t out yet, I love it with my whole heart. Gong’s debut is an atmospheric tense Romeo and Juliet re-telling set in Shanghai. Tackling issues of Imperialism and star crossed lovers, this book serves course after course of angst.
It’s also a category where I don’t have that many on my TBR. Like at all. Some are just series I need to read in general like The Cruel Prince and then books I won’t read.
Middle Grade and Children’s
Most of these are sadly on my TBR like:
- Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi. I’ve loved the Aru Shah series, I just haven’t caught up!
- Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. This is Roanhorse’s debut middle grade and I am so excited for it! Especially since I’ve loved her other books.
- Clean Getaway by Nic Stone. Same with Stone! This one also looks so cute from the cover and it’s a contemporary MG! I normally read fantasy MG’s so this one is extra exciting!
- Ghost Squad by Claribel Ortega. I will not, WILL NOT, let 2020 end before I read this. Seriously. I’ll just have to delay 2021.
- We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly. I will admit, shamefully, I have the ARC of this one and haven’t read it. Seriously shameful. I always want to read more books with STEM girls and this one looks AMAZING!
- From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks. The premise of a girl writing letters to her father, she’s never met, who is in prison? Talk about a book that will most certainly make me tear up.
- King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender. This isn’t Callender’s middle grade debut and I still haven’t one of their MG books. Is 2021 going to be the year of middle grade? I guess it has to be.
Because I didn’t know of any books in the Mystery and Thriller category, and a few others, I wanted to mention some other books on my TBR. I am a lot worse at reading Adult books and 2020 just proves it again.
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. This is a book I first saw when I was making my list of Black voices on Twitter, but while I read a few more on my list, I just haven’t picked this one up yet.
- When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole. I’ve loved Cole’s other Romance books so I know I am so excited for this thriller debut.