After my now-husband shared a “no-cleaning-more-reading” post on Facebook, I visited GoodReads and on a related note, learned I hit my 200 book reading goal with 42 days to spare (and I’m sure I missed tracking some). I still haven’t folded the laundry, love. #sorrynotsorry
I read romance unashamedly, and this year needed it more than ever — to escape into happily ever after stories (even though I’m living mine, the world around me is such a mess).
I am so happy with the trends of celebrating geek girls, celebrating body positivity, gender non-conformity, insecure men who have their own body issues/emotional abuse, strong woman, romance featuring people with disabilities, romance featuring people of color and multicultural relationships, and GLBTQIA+ romance. If you want to read some nerdy queer stories that feature many of these marginalized populations, look no further than Xan West, who sadly passed away this year, leaving us with untold stories I’m sure! about characters with chronic illness, gaming, D&D, and being Jewish and/or poly, non-binary in their romance, erotica and novels.
I did not write many (if any!) reviews in 2020 (maybe I’ll go back and add some notes) but my top five reads of 2020 (so far!) are:
5. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
A prince angsts over his family’s demand that he find a bride while he moonlights in ladies clothing. Only his talented dressmaker knows his secret… (Beautifully drawn graphic novel! Fairy tale-ish! Gender-bending! Identity issues! Sweet romance! Fashion! Courtly life!). I bought this to own and I think everyone in the house except Aaron Mylott has read it.
4. Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Tired of succumbing to her chronic illness, a socialite and website designer makes a bucket list and then enlists the help of her building supervisor/tortured artist to accomplish camping, ride a motorcycle, and experience meaningless (but thoroughly enjoyable) sex. (Fibromyalgia! Plus-size! Art! Technology! Glamping!) Loved Take a Hint, Dani Brown, too and can’t wait for the third book in the series.
3. Well Met by Jen DeLuca
A new-to-Ren-Faire girl falls for pirate alter-ego of Faire-obsessed local English teacher. (Shakespeare! Cosplay! Battle Chess! Corsets!). Well Played was also excellent and can’t wait for the third book in the series.
2. Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade
A TV star’s best acting job is playing a dumb blonde in RL – but online he writes fanfic as a way rectify the wrongs made by the show’s producers, preferring the book canon. He falls for a fellow writer and plus size cosplayer who doesn’t know he is her online beta reader and BFF… (Fanfic! More cosplay! Dyslexia! Body image! The Twitterverse!). Dade has a great romance series set in a library, for those of you who entertain such fantasies, and per Aimee Bender, y’all have them (from The Girl in the Flammable Skirt‘s story “Quiet, Please:” “She has her hair back and the glasses on but everyone has a librarian fantasy, and she is truly a babe beneath.”)
1. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
I have been looking for something as good as The Royal We for years, and sorry, Heir Affair did not match up. BUT RW&RB might have surpassed The Royal We in writing, plot and snark. The American President’s Mexican American son with drive to become the youngest US senator ever falls for the England’s closeted spare heir and THEN figures out he’s bi. (White House & royal life tidbits! Emails and letters! Millennial angst! Politics!) I bought the book, the ebook, and have read it a half dozen times.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano, a contemporary novel about grief, loss, obligation and responsibility in being the sole survivor of an airplane crash;
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens about escaping a cultist, abusive family;
19 Love Songs by David Levithan, whose memoirs and short stories on themes of love, identity, religion and young adult themes had me reading elegant, emotional passages out loud to my partner;
Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore, a wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey sort of tale;
The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver, a laugh-out-loud, tear-jerker modern science fiction novel about magical sleeping pills that help a grieving woman revisit her unexpectedly deceased fiancé and their ongoing life together in her dreams… but at some point she needs to flush those pills down the toilet and move on…. doesn’t she?
Visualising the Beatles by John Pring, & Rob Thomas an infographic biography and discography of the Fab Four;
Yes, I’m Hot in This and That Can Be Arranged both by Huda Fahmy, who sheds light on the Muslim American experience with snark and humor;
Wilde Life (Volume One) by Pascalle Lepas, a paranormal (werewolves! witches! ghosts! spirit bears!) graphic novel set in the Midwest that may appeal to fans of Stranger Things (and which you can read online! https://www.wildelifecomic.com);
Waves by Ingrid Chabbert and illustrated by Carole Maurel (illustration) an absolutely luminous, throat-choking-up graphic novel about miscarriage and devastating loss.
I also read every graphic novel by the amazing Lucy Knisley I could get my hands on re-read a bunch of Roald Dahl and Beverly Cleary books with Josie; re-read Little Women—the Annotated Version– by Louisa May Alcott (and then Jo & Laurie, the March Sisters, and Meg & Jo, and saw the movie, and toured Orchard House before it closed due to the pandemic, I might be obsessed with this book), Maggie Stiefvater’s the Raven Cycle, and Ellen Emerson White‘s The President’s Daughter series, and finally moved beyond Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell to read Carry On and Wayward Son (better than Harry Potter by she-who-must-not-be-named).
And in recounting this, it looks like I forgot to record some of my reading. Will do that, and check back December 31 to see if I have anything to add.
And now, I’m going to have lunch (mmm sammiches!) and finish reading The Matrimonial Advertisement, by Mimi Matthews!.