I recently decided that I’d like to start doing book blogging again (lucky you!), and so I’ve unearthed my sad and abandoned old blog from the depths of 2016. Due to the current situation (that needs no more explaining, I’m sure) I’ve found myself dedicating more time to enjoying reading, which I unfortunately hadn’t been doing for a number of years. It is therefore my hope that I can get back into this and become part of the book community again.
[End of boring intro]
Since we are half way through the year now, what better post to start on than the mid-year book freakout tag! This tag gets us to examine the highs and lows and everything in between of our reading in 2020 so far.
This tag is usually done on Youtube, and you can see the creator’s video here.
Onto the questions!
1. Best book I’ve read so far in 2020
I’ve actually been having a really good reading year, so I’m thinking I’ll have to cheat on this one! Whether it’s pure luck that I’ve picked up great books, or I’m just feeling super generous because of my reignited love of reading, I’ve rated nearly a third of the books I’ve read this year the glorious 5 stars. (If only Goodreads allowed for a 4.5). I’m going to give two answers for this: best in fiction and best in non-fiction. That’s fair, right?
My best in fiction is going to This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. This was actually my very first read of 2020 and what a start to the year! This book follows two agents on opposing sides of the time war: a war that is fought by time-travelling through different streams and threads of the past in alternate universes, tweaking events here and there in the hopes of effecting the outcomes of the future. The two agents, Red and Blue, find that the only real competition they have is each other, and begin a correspondence of letters that they leave for each other when they scupper the other’s plans. But the taunting and teasing doesn’t last forever, giving way instead to hints of mutual affection.
I absolutely adored it. I connected with it so naturally as someone who loves sci-fi, letter writing, and of course, a healthy bit of yearning, that this book felt made for me. The writing can at times cross the line of being excessively flowery, but if you’re in the right mood for a romance then it’s all a delight. It will definitely be hard for me to beat it this year.
In 2020 I’ve also enjoyed so much more non-fiction than I usually do, and whilst I’d like to mention a few favourites, I won’t break the prompt more than I already have! My non-fiction winner goes to Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi. This is a journey of the author’s own dramatic undertaking to prove his devout faith in Islam, but after much debate and many tears, he has an incredibly moving conversion to Christianity instead. I’d recommend more people to read it than just Christians, because I was particularly inspired by his desire to be certain in his faith whatever it happened to be. Whether it’s Islam or Christianity or nothing at all, let’s be sure and happy in our convictions. Why is the world so full of people with half-baked beliefs? This is a journey worth undertaking.
2. Best sequel I’ve read so far in 2020
This question is suuuper easy for me. I’ve only read two sequels this year, and whilst both were good, one I loved. Please cue the dramatic music, The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater has entered the building~.
The Dream Thieves is the second installment of the popular YA series The Raven Cycle. It’s a difficult plot to summise, but I’ll do my best. Our protagonist, Blue, is a sensible girl in a house full to bursting with psychics. She’s not psychic herself, but gets more than involved because she has the ability to increase the talents of those around her. In the first book she sees that a boy named Gansey will die. Gansey is an annoyingly rich and handsome private school student who you’d be sure to hate, if he wasn’t so sincerely and madly desperate to find a long lost dead Welsh King. Yep- not quite what you’d expect. He inspires loyalty and has a group of friends with their own quirky and vivid personalities, who you can’t help but love. It’s all totally magical, and the sequel gives us deeper insight into the mechanics of this found family, with clear direction into the next installment. Chefs’ kiss.
3. New release I haven’t read yet, but want to
There’s so much to choose from, but the plot of A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne Brown has particularly gripped me since I read it. This fantastical debut came out just this June and has built a lot of hype. It’s inspired by West African folklore and revolves around a princess and refugee who have their hearts set on murdering the other to achieve their own ambitions. This is pitched as an enemies to lovers, and I’m a sucker for this trope, so bring it on.
4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year
I don’t really tend to anticipate releases, but The Midnight Library by Matt Haig has been on my ‘want to read’ shelf for many months. Here’s the pitch:
‘Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?’
Need I say more??
5. Biggest disappointment
I really hate being negative about books unless they’re already very established and past the point of judgement. And so for that reason I’m going to give Homer’s The Iliad the joy of being my biggest disappointment, because you can hardly get more established than that. My explanation being that I read The Odyssey previously and found it more enjoyable and fitting to my tastes.
6. Biggest surprise
For this I think I’ll choose Audre Lorde’s poetic auto-biography Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Zami is ultimately a chronicle of the women who have shaped Lorde, with a keen eye on the racism, othering, poverty and grief she experienced all the way. Her situation is so painfully sad at the start that I almost decided to leave the book unfinished. Thankfully her recounts take some hopeful turns, and we get to see the light that poetry and love became in her life. The reason I call this suprising is because Lorde is far from shy in this book, with some of her confessions and secrets honestly shocking me in their frankness. I know this is what some people most love about Zami, but I’m not entirely convinced. (I blame my Britishness.)
7. Favourite new author
I read my first Steinbeck this year! 2020 is the year I get educated on my modern classics, you mark my words.
8. Newest fictional crush
9. Newest favourite character
Ooooh, now this I can get into. I’ve met so many new characters I love, so picking one is, in fact, cruel. Most of The Raven Boys characters would definitely be in the running for the top spot, but since I’ve touched on that series, let’s move onto some fresh meat.
That sounded more evil than I intended…
…But perhaps we should get a little evil? My newest favourite character has got to be Adelina from The Young Elites series. And Adelina is deliciously morally grey. As readers we’re left wondering if she’s going to be able to grasp onto the goodness inside herself, or if she will, for want of a better phrase, turn to the dark side. I personally love a bit of female villain action, and if you’re interested in this I have a lil review of The Young Elites here.
10. A book that made me cry
I hate to say it but I’ve never cried reading a book. Maybe that’ll be my challenge for the second half of the year? Let’s read ’em and weep, as they say.
11. Book that made me happy
There is one author, or rather poet who never fails to make me happy. And this year I had the pleasure to read her work Upstream: Selected Essays. I’m talking of no other than the pure delight that is Mary Oliver. Truthfully, I prefer her poetry collections such as Felicity (my favourite) but it was still great to try her essays. Quite a few of the essays in this collection were about other poets, some on nature (not a shock) as well as some isnights into her growing up.
Have you seen those ‘Try Not to Laugh’ challenges on YouTube? Well reading Mary Oliver is a ‘Try Not to Smile’ challenge that you’ll be sure to fail. Her optimism is so uplifting and her desire to see goodness and love in everything has helped me on many a rainy day. Even if you’re not sure if poetry is your thing, I think it’s worth checking Oliver out. I think what she has to say is of great worth.
One of my favourite quotes:
|Doesn’t anybody in the world anymore want to get up in the middle of the night and sing?
12. Most beautiful book I’ve bought so far this year
I’ve tried very hard to not buy books this year (although I’m not sure if my family members would agree) and if I do buy, to buy second hand. Consequently, I can’t think of any typically beautiful books, but I personally love the simplicity of these selected poems from Margaret Atwood. I definitely couldn’t just get the one book; they look so good together.
13. What books do I need to read by the end of the year?
There’s so many books I’d like to get around to this year, it’s slightly ridiculous. But what I actually need to read is another question altogether. What I can say however, is that I just finished binge-watching the BBC television adaption of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice (which took me to silly heights of entertainment) and it’s a crime I’ve not ready any of her novels. So I think I do need to get around to that. Mr Wickham, you’d better watch out.
14. Favourite Book Community Member
Easy! My favourite person in the world is my twin sister Rebekah, and she has a channel where she discusses everything bookish which you can check out here! Keep doing what you do, Bex. I love watching your videos and I know I’m not the only one ❤
Whew! We’ve finally come to the end of the whoppinggg mid-year freakout book tag. Thank you for reading and reflecting on the highs and lows with me. If you’ve read any of the books I’ve mentioned, I’d love to know your thoughts.
And let me know what you’re most excited to read this year!
Happy reading 🙂