Hi everyone! Today I bring to you my most anticipated post of the entire year, my top 10 reads of 2020. For me, 2020 has been a year where I truly immerse myself into the YA category and start on my historical fiction journey. Thanks to book blogging, I have uncovered so many amazing books, I can guarantee that 80% of these books were recommended by you all, and I am grateful for that.
Before we start I would like to just mention that as I reflected on my top few reads of the year, I am both thrilled and disappointed. Thrilled that I found so many amazing books but disappointed due to the lack of diversity, with many of these books being by White authors… as an Asian myself, I would have loved to have read more diverse books. I think why this happened was partially because this is my third month of blogging and I have mostly been catching up on all the “popular” books in the bookish world, most of which aren’t the most diverse. However, I am thankful to be aware and will definitely be diversifying my reads in 2021.
Another thing I would like to mention would be that I’m including other reviews of my top 10 books from blogs I love and follow, this is because an overly excited Cherelle is 100% biased and not the most coherent, plus the other reviews are really well written so you should check them out!
First, here are some honourable mentions because I had too many good books and could not only feature 10!
🎮 Warcross by Marie Lu – This was originally going to the top 10 just that the An Ember in the Ashes series kicked it out last minute! Warcross is incredibly atmospheric and the virtual reality world building is so so immersive. Marie Lu delivers a plot that twists and turns and twists and turns and… (you get it) as we journey with Emika, one of the most feisty and coolest characters ever. Must read for sci-fi fans!
🦄 Unlocked by Shannon Messenger [KOTLC #8.5] – Ahh another installment in the never-ending Keeper of the Lost Cities series! This book lacked in action but definitely made up with the banter (YES LEX AND BEX AND REX) despite the darker tone, as well as those legit game changers. And the series guide was SO amazing, my admiration for the world building is now at another level!
🧥 Renegades by Marissa Meyer [Renegades #1] – Marissa Meyer absolutely swept me away with The Lunar Chronicles… perhaps it was because I read that series first that I didn’t love Renegades as much. But I still enjoyed it a lot! The superpowers and morally grey aspect made this series a compelling read!
👒 We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter – The remarkable thing about We Were the Lucky Ones is how it managed to weave about 6 points of view into a flowing story brimming with so much love and familial relationships. This was one of the first books that I happy cried (though there was ugly cry too) and I truly recommend this uplifting world war 2 novel.
📚 The Midnight Library by Matt Haig – Wow. Breathtaking. I totally get how The Midnight Library won the GR choice awards. It deals with pretty dark themes of suicide and depression but I absolutely loved how it weaved quantum physics, mental health, philosophy and life into such a hopeful story.
🪑 And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman – The fact that a 70+ page novella can leave me in tears and resonate so much with is enough reason for you to read it. The relationship between Noah and his grandpa is so endearing and Backman deals with the topic of dementia with so much sensitivity and grace that I am both in awe and in tears.
✨ The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes – Ladies who don’t conform. Who want to spread the love of literacy to rural area. Plus lots of friendships and hopes and dreams. Read it.
💎 Ember Queen by Laura Sebastian [Ash Princess #3] – Ash Princess and Lady Smoke were so-so reads for me but I am extremely glad I carried on with the last book because woahh… the plot was impressive, I loved the political intrigue alternating with the battles and magic… and oh my gosh that ending. *shocked pikachu face*
(Yes, I am actually going to rank the reads. I have no idea how I going to choose and will probably regret this idea but here we go!)
“I am haunted by humans.”
It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.
By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
If there is one word to describe this book. It would be pain. If you’re looking for a happy read then you are in the absolute wrong direction because the amount of heartache here is devastating with the capital D. The number of times I major ugly-cried here is immense.
The Book Thief follows Liesel, a girl who just became an orphan, as she adapts to her foster family and witnesses all the brutality in that time of war. This book is painfully real and we can truly see a young, innocent girl’s response to these horrors, and how she still tries to show love.
Despite the dark overtone, this book is also filled with many moments of love and hope with all the family and (unlikely) friendships. Oh and did I mention that this book is narrated from Death’s point of view?
Other reviews to check out: Tiction @ Fictionally Crazy
“Not a sky witch, or even a water-bound lake witch. Something else. Something new. Nina looked around at the ladies of the 588th, all of them that made up something the world had never seen before, and saw smiles tugging their lips, flashes of teeth showing in private, pleased grins. Night Witches.”
In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted…
Bold and fearless, Nina Markova always dreamed of flying. When the Nazis attack the Soviet Union, she risks everything to join the legendary Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on the invading Germans. When she is stranded behind enemy lines, Nina becomes the prey of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, and only Nina’s bravery and cunning will keep her alive.
Transformed by the horrors he witnessed from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials, British war correspondent Ian Graham has become a Nazi hunter. Yet one target eludes him: a vicious predator known as the Huntress. To find her, the fierce, disciplined investigator joins forces with the only witness to escape the Huntress alive: the brazen, cocksure Nina. But a shared secret could derail their mission unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.
Growing up in post-war Boston, seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride is determined to become a photographer. When her long-widowed father unexpectedly comes homes with a new fiancée, Jordan is thrilled. But there is something disconcerting about the soft-spoken German widow. Certain that danger is lurking, Jordan begins to delve into her new stepmother’s past—only to discover that there are mysteries buried deep in her family . . . secrets that may threaten all Jordan holds dear.
In this immersive, heart-wrenching story, Kate Quinn illuminates the consequences of war on individual lives, and the price we pay to seek justice and truth.
How do you identify a Kate Quinn book? It’s historical fiction with badass ladies who go out of their way to defy the norm and so much action.
The strong female heroine is a trope not foreign to most of us. I myself love it. It is so empowering to see girls leading and having confidence in their identities. However, with a whole lot of books embracing this trope, we can’t deny how repetitive it has become. And it is Kate Quinn who masters creating women of strength, making them stand out.
In The Huntress, we see 3 vastly different protagonists: one, a woman who was a pilot in the war with a messed up childhood. Two, a journalist devoting his time to tracking down war criminals and is determined to find The Huntress. Three, a young lady whose life got turned upside down and crosses paths with the two.
Apart from the incredibly complex characters, I loved how much they failed. Like Kate does not give them a easy time in their mission. They lose lead after lead and end up at dead ends all the time. Furthermore, I loved how the storyline was weaved through all three storylines of different time periods, each holding equal significance. I was gasping so many time at the cleverly planted clues and subversions of expectations.
If you want strong but flawed characters with pasts, action action all the way, as well as a meaningful exploration of guilt and justice (oh and banter too!), then do yourself a favour and pick up The Huntress.
Other reviews to check out: Siena @ Booksophobia
“Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives—or to find strength in a very long one.”
A Life No One Will Remember. A Story You Will Never Forget.
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.
Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.
But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.
Is anyone even surprised that this book made it to the top 10? The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is, without a doubt, one of the most hyped up books of the year and I support all the hype because it deserves every single drop. (if that’s how you count hype hm?)
If you didn’t know already, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue follows Addie who makes a deal with the devil to live forever. But everyone who meets her will forget her. Until she meets someone 300 years later who does.
I’m not going to rant about it too long because I think everyone has enough of talk about this book haha (but if you’re interested, you can read my full review) but the few key things I loved was the premise, the writing, the characters and the themes. (okay that is more than “a few” lol)
This premise/main set up of this book was so creative and I think it truly dug deep to resonate with us, reliving our fear of not being remembered and desire to make our mark on the world somewhere. Addie LaRue is a slow read, and repetitive. I disliked that element at first, but then I realised how well they set the tone for the book and reflected Addie’s own bleak, monotonous life and allowed me to understand her more deeply. Add on V.E. Schwab’s phenomenal writing. Plus the characters and their backstories. (gonna stop here and not transform this into a full length review)
Other reviews to check out: Jawahir @ The Never Ending Chronicles of Jawahir the Bookworm || May @ Dreamer of Books and Coffee || Alex @ The Scribe Owl || Lia @ Chain of Novels
“To the stars who listen… and the dreams that are answered.”
Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …
Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.
There are a thousand praises I could give the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas but I think you all have heard enough about it haha. Let me just share a few of my favourite points.
It was the world building in the series that captured my heart first. The world of Prythian is so scenic and intricately crafted, I loved the different courts with their values and relations with others. The complexity of the world was made even more so with the rich history between the faeries and the humans uncovered slowly, I gobbled all that up.
And of course, the charming characters. Feyre’s growth arc across the series was just astounding. And all the other side characters who emerged in A Court of Mist and Fury were my favourites (we stan a found family!)… the banter and care and hopes they all shared was so sweet!
Other reviews to check out: Becky @ Dusts of Magic || Georgia @ Lost in Neverland || Allison @ Universe Within Pages
“Of all that we’re asked to give others in this life, the most difficult to offer may be forgiveness.”
In the summer of 1932, on the banks of Minnesota’s Gilead River, the Lincoln Indian Training School is a pitiless place where Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to Odie O’Banion, a lively orphan boy whose exploits constantly earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Odie and his brother, Albert, are the only white faces among the hundreds of Native American children at the school.
After committing a terrible crime, Odie and Albert are forced to flee for their lives along with their best friend, Mose, a mute young man of Sioux heritage. Out of pity, they also take with them a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy. Together, they steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi in search for a place to call home.
Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphan vagabonds journey into the unknown, crossing paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an enthralling, bighearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.
When I finished this book, I was just sitting there at how breathtaking and breathstealing (if that’s a word) this was.
This Tender Land follows Odie, a white boy in the Lincoln Indian Training School where Native American children are educated. However, Odie gets into some serious trouble and flees along with some of his friends on a journey to find a home.
This Tender Land was narrated from Odie’s POV and I loved this 12 year old boy’s voice. It was so realistic, a combination of childishness and some maturity as he dealt with tough topics such as forgiveness and faith.
And I simply adore the four orphan vagabonds, each of them on their own genuine journey to find home, to find out who they were… Their friendship turn family was so endearing and made me bawl both eyeballs out.
The writing was also poetic with beautiful metaphors, the setting so lush and vivid which as so apt given the connection to the land this book touched on! Truly a masterpiece!
“Hate ricochets, but kindness does too.”
When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years.
Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kindhearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives…
Someone explain to me how a book can possibly be so affecting and painful to read and yet so sweet and precious at the exact same time.
A List of Cages is one of the most endearing stories. The characters are so precious and noble in their own small ways, not forgetting how vulnerable they are too. And the brotherhood and friendship in the novel was so sincere and sweet that I was absolutely rooting for Adam and Julian.
As breathtaking the friendship was, this book was ugly. And not easy to go through. The abuse portrayed in this book was really affecting, extremely vivid at times and the brutal writing drove the point very close to home. The emotions conveyed hit me hard. I could truly feel the devastation and helplessness. This kind of abuse is not acceptable at all and it broke my heart seeing the character in a hard place (can’t say much because of spoilers). It also deals with death and grief in a way that made my eyes burn.
This is a book about hope and carrying on, about how kindness can change someone’s life, about the power of friendship, about how much abuse can affect, about death and grief. A List of Cages is no easy read, but an emotional one that still is important. It impacted me and will stick with me, please go embark on this journey.
Other reviews to check out: Belle @ This Belle Reads Too
“Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after. Such moments are tests of courage, of strength.”
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
Haha, this was the book that kicked Warcross off the list last- minute.
Phew, I think I don’t think I have recovered from the huge hangover from Sky but let me share with you why you. must. read. this. series.
Laia and Elias have officially been branded my favourite characters and those that need-to-be-protected-at-all-costs. For a good reason. For Laia, her character arc through the books is simply remarkable. She isn’t your typical YA heroine who starts out all strong and badass, instead she is weak and ordinary and makes a mistake and as her courage and confidence grows we still see her falter big time, and I loved it. Elias, oh my goodness don’t get me started, I loved (actually hated lol) how honourable he was and always sacrificing his time and effort and soul for others, his struggle between duty and freedom across the books was so incredibly written!
Another thing I loved about this series were the side characters, their relationships, identities and roles were significant plot points and I gobbled it all up.
The last thing I want to mention would be the world building. As much as I loved the Ember Quartet, no way would I want to go on the adventures with them because their empire. Is. Brutal. The series was so realistic in portraying hardships, so intense with how high the stakes are… I am just in awe of how it was created.
Other reviews to check out: Sam @ Literary Delirium || Abby @ Beyond the Read (book 4) || Nehal @ Books and Words || Leah @ Leah’s Books
“If music stops, and art ceases, and beauty fades, what have we then?”
It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep–and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.
Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.
Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.
A sweeping, multi-layered romance with a divine twist, by the Printz Honor-winning author of The Passion of Dolssa, set in the perilous days of World Wars I and II.
It would be an understatement to say that I loved Lovely War because I loved it so desperately, with every inch of my little bookish heart and my soul that has been repeatedly shattered. Lovely War packed in a whole load of things and I adored every single second of it.
Lovely War is a story of hope. Of love. Of how humans, broken as they are, can care for another. And it was insanely sweet how that was demonstrated. I know some people complain about the instalove but IT WAS NOT (or rather not really in my delirium of loving the story) – it was more of an attraction and a slowly developing relationship between two endearing young people which was so so so dear to me. The amount of understanding and support in the relationships despite how much it fluctuated… *screams in hysteria*
But Lovely War is not all fluff okay. It deals with SO many serious issues like race. I was so heartened at how it highlighted the contribution of the African Americans during the Great War. Kudos to Julie Berry! Furthermore, it deals so painfully and realistically with the topic of loss, grief and guilt. Those three besties in war. It broke me so so much to see how each character was plagued by one or all of the three and how they bravely had to overcome it. And it was not cliche at all how it was executed… it was the rawest and realest (is this a word?) thing I loved and cried bittersweet tears for.
Lovely War is a stunningly beautiful book that will slip in and wreck you. So PLEASE do yourself a favour and go read it. Thanks for coming to my TED talk. (ALSO, it’s narrated by Greek Gods, kay!!)
Other reviews to check out: Yhel @ Ended Up Reading || Nadia @ The Journeying Bibliophile
“Even in the Future the Story Begins with Once Upon a Time.”
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless Lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg.
She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
JUST KNOW THAT THIS BOOK IS MY SOUL. I can’t write much about it or it would take up two posts (maybe I’ll do a post someday on it)
The first book follows Cinder who is both a cyborg and a mechanic, in a time where a disease plagues the population of New Beijing and finds herself entangled with a lot of big business.
Some of the main reasons why The Lunar Chronicles is both a comfort read and an intense read = favourite read for me would be the characters. Marissa Meyer just brings these characters from fairytales and twists them into something new and sh-sh-shocking. Like Cinder as a cyborg mechanic? *ahhh* Not only are the concepts of the characters, their backstory and all, insanely creative, the development of them and their personalities is also stunning. (and also all that sass and sarcasm!)
Each character is so unique and has their own vulnerabilities, such as self-identity which I found could resonate deeply with me. It is just so inspiring to see them overcome these blocks and rise up the occasion with the duty to save the world, making me root for them all the way. (especially seeing all these girls who are being discriminated/bullied rise up *scream scream scream*)
We have all these complex characters already and Marissa Meyer goes one step further and BOOM adds a newfound family trope to it which makes me melt. And adds fantastic world-building. Plus themes of discrimination etc. And sprinkles so much good and shocking (well, most of the time) plot… every time you see a nod to the original fairytale, you really can’t help but smile at the subtleness and ingenuity.
Other reviews to check out: Noelle @ Wordgazing and Magic || Lilly @ Lilly’s Little Library || April @ Booked Till Midnight || Lauren @ Twenty-Seven Letters
“Kaz leaned back. “What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?”
“Knife to the throat?” asked Inej.
“Gun to the back?” said Jesper.
“Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina.
“You’re all horrible,” said Matthias.”
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .
A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes
Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.
Ha.Ha. You were *totally* not expecting this.
But jokes aside, since the day I read it, Six of Crows has managed to infiltrate every non-book review post ever. (I’m not kidding, but exaggerating a bit but you all know!)
*ashamed of myself for not writing it a proper review*
Six of Crows well… is Six of Crows (go read the description, I loved how it was pitched)
Imma jump right into all the hype and be yelling “No mourners, no funerals” with all my breath. Because Six of Crows was simply ELECTRIC.
It mastered the misfits with clashing personalities and pasts banding together and finding a “family”. I LOVE THESE CHARACTERS. GIVE ME ALL THE SASS AND BANTER AND BROKENNESS AND TRYING TO HEAL AND RELATIONSHIPS AND CRAZINESS AND EVEN GREED. GIMME. #iconic
I was constantly rooting for all the characters and devoured this whole book in a whole sitting. The writing is also just super *intense* and exhilarating, hitting the nail right on the head when it comes to the feels, be it wonder, fear, tension or just *bottled up emotions for my favourite group of misfits*.
Don’t get me started on the plot because *long drawn out howl*. It shocked, wowed and won me over. I was screeching at every single plot twist, at the verge of dying during failed attempt, and breathless at every smart move our witty crew makes. And when they managed to wing it? Aw yeah.
In short, this duology is at the tip of my tongue in every single post for a reason. And my favourite book of 2020 for a reason. Go read it and have the time of your life.
Other reviews to check out: Kirsten @ The Novel Existence || Sunny @ Revolution Reading || Ahaana @ Windows to Worlds
And we are done! Oh my goodness I had so much fun writing about all my new favourites, though I am pained as I feel so bad for ranking some lower than others and have to resist the urge to change the rankings ahhh. I’m truly grateful that I’ve managed to discover so many incredible books this year. Thank you for reading!