Books of 2020

Due to health and other life complications, over the last several years I haven’t been able to read as much as I would have liked to. I was lucky to finish more than a few books in a year, so it’s been something of a surprise that in this year that has been hellish in so many ways, I was actually able to get in a lot of reading. Part of that was because my youngest reached a slightly more independent stage, so she doesn’t insist in being in my arms at all times. Another part of is that I just simply gave up on managing any of my responsibilities that didn’t absolutely require my attention right away. (There is a bathroom in our house that I’m pretty sure must be haunted by now because the neglect has made it a prime location for all things creepy.) 

I don’t think I’ve ever put together one of those lists of all the books I’ve read in a year. Probably because it would hardly have counted as a list. This year it actually seems like something worth doing. Even just as a reminder that reading voraciously is one of the few things from 2020 that I want to take with me into 2021. I’m not going to try to remember every book I read, though. Just the ones that really stuck with me. So, in roughly the order I read them, here goes:

The Living by Isaac Marion (final book in one of my favorite series)

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell (Swoon)

The Sound of Stars by Alechia Dow (I’ve been gifting this to everyone I know)

Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard (Best slow-burn, enemies to lovers story of the year?)

Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater (Oh, Ronan Lynch)

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman (Lovely)

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow (Magical and poignant)

Roar by Cora Carmack (Haunted me for several days following)

Onyx and Ivory by Mindee Arnett (Very cool world building)

A Blade so Black by L.L. McKinney (Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh.)

The Unselected Journals of Emma M. Lion: Volume 3 by Beth Brower (I tell everyone these books are the perfect fall read.)

Merciful Crow by Margaret Owens (Got so into my mind I dreamt about it.)

I also got to be a reader for Volume 4 of Emma M. Lion and for a steampunk sci-fi by Kathy Cowley, both of which I loved. Kathy has The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet coming out in April 2021, so be on the lookout for that.

Buccaneer Dan and the Raven Boys

Here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

BUCCANEER DAN

Even before I was officially part of Jordan’s family, I was hearing about Buccaneer Dan the Most Fierce and Good-looking Buccaneer of All Time, a book written by Jordan’s brother Leland Faux that was said to be “quite violent” and also “funny.” When Lee decided to turn it into an eBook I was pretty excited to finally read it.

In this doodle, Buccaneer Dan looks less fierce and more petulant. (Note: I did not run this by my brother-in-law to find out if this is really how Buccaneer Dan looks. I wonder if this is Buccaneer Dan's first fan art...?)

In this doodle, Buccaneer Dan looks less fierce and more petulant. (Note: I did not run this by my brother-in-law to find out if this is really how Buccaneer Dan looks. I wonder if this is Buccaneer Dan’s first fan art…?)

Lee is a funny person, so I figured the book would at least be entertaining. What I was not expecting was to be laughing out loud and to be thinking, “I LOVE this book.” There’s so much hilarious word play, so many humorous allusions to real-life people and events, and even the violence is so cartoonish and exaggerated that it’s funny instead of gross (most of the time).

For instance, here are a couple of my favorite lines:

When most of Buccaneer Dan’s crew is drowning: “Econ Bob was still up at the surface. He would have sunk down too but being an economist his head was full of knowledge. And since knowledge is lighter than air, he wouldn’t sink below his eyes.”

“Buccaneer Dan had an idea develop in his brain — which is a wonderful place to develop ideas.”

After Buccaneer Dan had just cut in half the brain of one of Robin Hood’s merry men named Tony (yes, the book features Robin Hood as well) and everyone is standing around awkwardly: “One of the [other] merry men even made a joke about whether or not Tony was left brained or right brained, which of course made everybody laugh. (Tony was left brained.)”

“Buccaneer Dan and his crew, on the other hand, were quite adept fighters. So the fight was not much of a contest—it was like scissors against paper. Or some would say rock against scissors, as Buccaneer Dan’s crew did sustain some injuries. It certainly was not a paper against rock, where it’s not entirely clear how the victory occurred.”

You can check out Buccaneer Dan’s website or order the book on Kindle. I suggest you give it a try.

THE RAVEN BOYS

My first experience with Maggie Stiefvater was Scorpio Races, and we all know how much I loved that book. I still recommend it to pretty much everyone I talk to. So when I was visiting my parents’ house and saw The Raven Boys on the shelf, just waiting to be read, I of course had to do it. And it hooked me—well, I wouldn’t say RIGHT away—but within a couple chapters?

I read it late into the night. I slept with the book beside me to make up for the absence of my husband who was still at home, working hard to make us moneys.

(Just kidding. I did not sleep with the book, but I was tempted to read it all the way through the night instead of just late.)

(Just kidding. I did not sleep with the book, but I was tempted to read it all the way through the night instead of just late.)

I read it in the airport while I waited for my plane. I read it on the plane. Once I got home, I read it late into the night a second time. I read it during every free moment I had the next day. And I finished it within probably 48 hours (would’ve finished faster if I didn’t have to work). I then went to download Book 2 on Kindle, but I discovered it’s not coming out until SEPTEMBER!

NO! I CAN’T WAIT THAT LONG!!!

The thing about Maggie Stiefvater that I’m noticing—something that she does very well—is to pack so much information about a character into just a couple sentences. Or pack a ton of information about the plot into just one scene. It feels compact and complete.

Scorpio Races and The Raven Boys are really pretty different kinds of stories, despite the fact that they’re both full of a haunting sort of magic and gently building, just-the-right-amount-of-tension romance. But I think both books showcase the skill that Maggie has with writing.

They’re the kind of books that simultaneously inspire me to get writing myself and clarify for me just how hard it is to create something that’s truly good art. Speaking of which, it’s time to get cracking at my own book again. Here goes.