Another great year of reading is in the books! (See what I did there?!) Every year since 2016, I’ve set a reading goal over on Goodreads and every year, I’ve been able to meet or beat my goal. This year I set my goal at 72 books—that was the number of books I read in 2019 and I wanted to try to match it. I’m happy report I did a little bit better and beat it: I read 82 books this year, the most books I’ve ever read in a year! Of course, the pandemic meant I was spending more time at home than ever before and that allowed me the extra time for reading. I was joking with my friend the other day that I bet I could have read 100 books if I hadn’t discovered TikTok at the start of quarantine.
In the past, I’ve named my top five favorite books of the year in each December’s On My Nightstand post—you can see my picks from 2019, 2018, and 2017 in past posts. This year, I wanted to dedicate a separate post to my favorite books since I think that will make for a better user experience moving forward—it’ll be easier to find later! I
December was a great reading month for me—I took the last two weeks of the month off work and spent a lot of my time relaxing with a book in hand. I also read some really, really amazing books—and there were a few I stayed up way to late finishing, which is one of the small joys in life I love.
As is custom on these posts, I wanted to call out that I’m part of a program where Random House will send me some of their new titles each month. I’m under no obligation to post about any titles I receive, so I really can tell you my own opinion (good or bad!) about them. I’ve starred the books Random House sent me for free below. I’m so lucky to be sent books and that’s not lost on me!
One housekeeping note—I used to use Amazon links in these posts, but going forward, I’ll be linking out to Bookshop. Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. If you want to find a specific local bookstore to support, find them on the Bookshop map and they’ll receive the full profit off your order. Otherwise, your order will contribute to an earnings pool that will be evenly distributed among independent bookstores (even those that don’t use Bookshop). Their prices are honestly very comparable to Amazon, which is great—and makes it a no-brainer. I became an affiliate on Bookshop, meaning if you purchase a book using one of my links below, I’ll receive a 10% commission—but don’t worry, Bookshop still gives a matching 10% to independent bookstores.
I am still using my Kindle to read, but source most of my books from my local library. I still do buy Kindle books from time to time. However, when I do buy physical copies of books, I am trying my best to shop local bookstores. It’s definitely not perfect at supporting small, but I am making changes where I can.
Here’s to another great year of reading! x
THIS TIME NEXT YEAR // SOPHIE COUSENS
Minnie and Quinn meet at a NYE party—she’s an awkward Lizzie McGuire type, he’s a wealthy guy who’s had a seemingly easy life. The pair seem to have nothing in common until they realize they were both born on January 1, 1990 at the same hospital, minutes apart. Quinn and his family were give the cash prize for being the first baby born in the new year. Quinn also got the name Minnie was suppose to have—his mother “stole” it from Minnie’s mom. Because of this “curse”, Minnie dreads her birthday and tries to avoid it at all costs. As Minnie and Quinn leave the NYE party they’re at, they keep running into each other and begin to test the theory that opposites attract.
Would I recommend it? I really enjoyed this one—there was lots of character depth to Minnie and Quinn and a fun plot; admittedly, it was a little predictable, but the perfect holiday read.
FOREVER WILD // K.A. TUCKER
A novella to wrap-up the Wild series by K.A. Tucker, this story picks up with Calla, Jonah, and the rest of the crew where we left off in Alaska. Christmas is coming again and both Calla and Jonah are hosting their parents—who are very curious about their upcoming nuptials.
Would I recommend it? Reading The Simple Wild, Wild at Heart, and Forever Wild was one of the highlights of my 2020—this is such a cute series and I am glad Marie, a character in the books, is getting her own spinoff!
ALONG THE INFINITE SEA // BEATRIZ WILLIAMS
It’s 1966 and Pepper Schuyler fixes up a rare Mercedes she found in a garage on Cape Cod. She sells at auction, thinking she can use the money to take care of the baby she’s carrying: the result of an affair with a married politician. But the car’s new owner turns out to be its original owner, Annabelle Dommerich. She drove the car out of Germany on the eve of the Second World War and takes Pepper under her wing. Pepper slowly begins to learn about Annabelle’s past: her Nazi husband, her Jewish lover, and the children shared between them all.
Would I recommend it? I had to take a break from WWII historical fiction at the start of the pandemic as it was just too heavy for the times. But I’m ready to re-enter the genre and this one is SO GOOD.
BEFORE SHE WAS HELEN // CAROLINE COONEY
* Trigger warning for this book—rape, sexual assault.
Clemmie Lakefield lives in a retirement community just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. She goes next door to check on her neighbor, Dom, because she hasn’t heard from him in a few days. She doesn’t find him, but she does find a door connecting Dom’s garage to the garage of the unit next door. She snoops around and finds what she thinks is a work of art—but her grand niece and nephew inform her it’s actually for smoking marijuana. Her discovery sets off a chain of events that could unravel Clemmie’s darkest secrets, hidden for 50 years. Throughout the book, we learn about her tragic past, riddled with abuse, a lost child, and murder.
Would I recommend it? I am usually not a huge thriller fan, but this one was hard to put down—and it’s basically two thrillers in one since you see Clemmie’s life then and now and are unraveling both side by side.
ACT LIKE A LADY // KELTIE KNIGHT, JAC VANEK & BECCA TOBIN*
There’s not too much to summarize about this one—it’s a series of essays about romantic relationships, body image, breakups, navigating a career, and adult friendships written by the Lady Gang themselves.
Would I recommend it? I love the Lady Gang podcast, but I was pretty meh on this book—so happy the girls got their book, but I think I was a little outside of the target demo age-wise. The advice portion really is skewed towards a younger audience and a lot of their personal essays were just retelling of stories I have heard on the podcast over the years.
GREENLIGHTS // MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY*
Alright, alright, alright—this memoir gives readers an inside look at Matthew’s childhood in Texas, his rise to fame, and his pivot away from Rom Coms. He’s a great storyteller, but I felt like he glossed over a lot of the stuff I was actually interested—read: his rom coms—and focuses more on telling stories from his travels in a van across the US and what he did in-between his big hits. He does tell the story of how he met Camila and I really enjoyed that part. He also mentioned his agent, Jim Toth, which sparked my interest since he’s married to Reese Witherspoon.
Would I recommend it? I wanted to like this one more than I did—I was looking more for a dish about Hollywood, but this really does focus more on Matthew’s life and the lessons he’s learned. It was still a worthwhile read—it’s just no Open Book by Jessica Simpson, hah!
A SKY PAINTED GOLD // LAURA WOOD
It’s the 1920s: Lou is 17 and lives a simple life in a Cornish village. She’s often wondered about the old Cardew house, a mansion up on the hill that overlooks the town, as it’s stood empty for many years. She knows all about the owners, Robert Cardew and his sister, Caitlin, from the society pages she loves to read with her sister.
Robert and Caitlin return to the house for the summer, and Lou can’t help but get close to the glitz and glamour, so she climbs a tree on the property, thinking she’ll go unnoticed. Only Robert strolls up to the tree she’s hiding in and offers her a drink. The next day, she receives a formal invitation to the Cardews next affair and quickly befriends the brother and sister duo. As summer marches on, Lou gets sucked into their world more and more—and realizes it might not be all fun and games.
Would I recommend it? HOLY SHIT—this book is so good. It’s a coming-of-age tale with Gatsby vibes. It’s definitely one of the best books I read this year. It is so underrated, I have been telling ANYONE who will listen about this book.
A SNOWFALL OF SILVER // LAURA WOOD
* Not available on Bookshop, so I did link to Amazon.
Freya is 18 and runs away from her home in Cornwall to her sister Lou’s house in London in hopes of becoming an actress. (Yes, the Lou from A Sky Painted Gold! Loved that this was a spinoff book.) Freya meets Kit on her train ride to London and he introduces her to a touring company that puts on theatrical productions. She’s hired to assist with wardrobe and eventually gets a shot at being an understudy. But as her dreams get closer to coming true, she realizes she might have another dream.
Would I recommend it? I liked this one a lot—but I still think A Sky Painted Gold tops it!
UNDER A DANCING STAR // LAURA WOOD
Bea lives on her parents crumbling estate in 1930s England, and she’s known for stirring the pot. Her parents want her to marry someone of their choosing—read: someone rich enough to keep the family estate alive. But she wants a bigger world than just the four walls around her. After a faux pas at a dinner party her parents threw, they ship her off to Italy for the summer to visit her Uncle, his fiancé, and her cousin. A whole new world opens up for her—including romance, as sparks fly between Bea and a cocky young artist named Ben. After bantering back and forth for a while, they decide to have the perfect summer fling—with one rule: they can’t fall in love.
Would I recommend it? Can you guys tell I went on a Laura Wood kick?! I really enjoyed this one—it’s probably my second favorite after A Sky Painted Gold. I will read anything Laura Wood writes!