Book Recommendation Lists, Bookish Odds & Ends, Features

Favorite Books of 2020 (January – June)

FavBooks2020JantoJune

Today I’m going to be sharing my favorite books that I’ve read in 2020 thus far…

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» The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger’s Apprentice #1) by John Flanagan

RuinsofGorlan

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Genre: YA fantasy

They have always scared him in the past — the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied….

My mother-in-law actually recommended this book for my son.  After reading it for myself, I agree that this book would definitely appeal to boys.  There are some wonderful themes like hard work, courage, friendship, etc.  I would also consider this a wonderful gateway book into fantasy.


» Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in American by Ibi Zoboi

BlackEnough

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Genre: YA contemporary ((anthology))

Black Enough is a star-studded anthology edited by National Book Award finalist Ibi Zoboi that will delve into the closeted thoughts, hidden experiences, and daily struggles of black teens across the country. From a spectrum of backgrounds—urban and rural, wealthy and poor, mixed race, immigrants, and more—Black Enough showcases diversity within diversity.

Whether it’s New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds writing about #blackboyjoy or Newbery Honor-winning author Renee Watson talking about black girls at camp in Portland, or emerging author Jay Coles’s story about two cowboys kissing in the south—Black Enough is an essential collection full of captivating coming-of-age stories about what it’s like to be young and black in America.

Black Enough was a game changer for me.  I don’t tend to read anthologies because I find that I tend to struggle to connect to short stories, but I loved this collection!  What an excellent book to incorporate during #BlackHistoryMonth in February!


» Girls Like Us by Randi Pink

GirlsLikeUs

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Genre: YA historical fiction

Set in the summer of 1972, this moving YA historical novel is narrated by teen girls from different backgrounds with one thing in common: Each girl is dealing with pregnancy.
Four teenage girls. Four different stories. What they all have in common is that they’re dealing with unplanned pregnancies.

In rural Georgia, Izella is wise beyond her years, but burdened with the responsibility of her older sister, Ola, who has found out she’s pregnant. Their young neighbor, Missippi, is also pregnant, but doesn’t fully understand the extent of her predicament. When her father sends her to Chicago to give birth, she meets the final narrator, Susan, who is white and the daughter of an anti-choice senator.

Randi Pink masterfully weaves four lives into a larger story – as timely as ever – about a woman’s right to choose her future.

Wow!  A book about teen pregnancy set in the 70s?  Yes!  I flew through this book.  I was very invested in this story & the characters.


» Awkward (Berrybrook Middle School #1) & Crush (Berrybrook Middle School #3) by Svetlana Chmakova

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Genre: MG contemporary ((graphic novels))

I’ve adored each graphic novel in this series.  Chmakova captures the essence of middle school perfectly.  She also does a wonderful job giving us a diverse cast of characters, and tackling relevant topics.


» On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

OntheComeUo

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Genre: YA contemporary

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.

While this didn’t necessarily have as much as an impact on me as The Hate U Give, this book was amazing in its own right.  I think Angie Thomas has a brilliant way of writing YA contemporary that is not only relevant & important, but also entertaining at the same time.


» The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

TheLanguageofThorns

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Genre: YA fantasy

Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns.

Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price.

Inspired by myth, fairy tale, and folklore, #1 New York Times–bestselling author Leigh Bardugo has crafted a deliciously atmospheric collection of short stories filled with betrayals, revenge, sacrifice, and love.

Perfect for new readers and dedicated fans, these tales will transport you to lands both familiar and strange—to a fully realized world of dangerous magic that millions have visited through the novels of the Grishaverse.

This collection of six stories includes three brand-new tales, all of them lavishly illustrated with art that changes with each turn of the page, culminating in six stunning full-spread illustrations as rich in detail as the stories themselves. 

A collection of deliciously dark short stories are inspired by classic fairytales & folklore.  I LOVED these stories!  They gave me Neil Gaiman vibes, so if you are a NG fan, I’d recommend these stories to you.  I also adored the illustrations throughout that really enhanced the story.


» Far From the Tree by Robin Benway

FarFromtheTree

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Genre: YA contemporary

Being the middle child has its ups and downs.

But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including—

Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. Having grown up the snarky brunette in a house full of chipper redheads, she’s quick to search for traces of herself among these not-quite-strangers. And when her adopted family’s long-buried problems begin to explode to the surface, Maya can’t help but wonder where exactly it is that she belongs.

And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother. After seventeen years in the foster care system, he’s learned that there are no heroes, and secrets and fears are best kept close to the vest, where they can’t hurt anyone but him.

Far From the Tree is a beautiful YA contemporary about adoption, family, identity, and love.  Told in 3 different perspectives, I enjoyed the journey & development of each of these characters.


» Keeper of Lost Cities (Keeper of the Lost Cities #1), Exile (Keeper of the Lost Cities #2), & Everblaze (Keeper of the Lost Cities #3) by Shannon Messenger

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Genre: MG fantasy

Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She’s a Telepath—someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It’s a talent she’s never known how to explain.

Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there’s a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known.

Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.”
There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for.

In this page-turning debut, Shannon Messenger creates a riveting story where one girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first.

I am LOVING this MG fantasy series.  While these books are a bit chunky, don’t let the page count deter you.  I fly through these books.   I’d recommend this series to fans of Harry Potter.


» SHOUT by Laurie Halse Anderson

Shout

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Genre: YA memoir ((told in verse))

A searing poetic memoir and call to action from the bestselling and award-winning author of Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson!

Bestselling author Laurie Halse Anderson is known for the unflinching way she writes about, and advocates for, survivors of sexual assault. Now, inspired by her fans and enraged by how little in our culture has changed since her groundbreaking novel Speak was first published twenty years ago, she has written a poetry memoir that is as vulnerable as it is rallying, as timely as it is timeless. In free verse, Anderson shares reflections, rants, and calls to action woven between deeply personal stories from her life that she’s never written about before. Searing and soul-searching, this important memoir is a denouncement of our society’s failures and a love letter to all the people with the courage to say #metoo and #timesup, whether aloud, online, or only in their own hearts. Shout speaks truth to power in a loud, clear voice– and once you hear it, it is impossible to ignore.

This is a must read for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.  While you don’t HAVE to read Speak to read SHOUT, I feel like it makes a bigger impact if you read Speak prior to this.  If you didn’t know, SHOUT is Anderson’s memoir told in verse.


» Loveboat, Taipei (Loveboat, Taipei #1) by Abigail Hing Wen

LoveboatTaipei

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Genre: YA contemporary

When eighteen-year-old Ever Wong’s parents send her from Ohio to Taiwan to study Mandarin for the summer, she finds herself thrust among the very over-achieving kids her parents have always wanted her to be, including Rick Woo, the Yale-bound prodigy profiled in the Chinese newspapers since they were nine—and her parents’ yardstick for her never-measuring-up life.

Unbeknownst to her parents, however, the program is actually an infamous teen meet-market nicknamed Loveboat, where the kids are more into clubbing than calligraphy and drinking snake-blood sake than touring sacred shrines.

Free for the first time, Ever sets out to break all her parents’ uber-strict rules—but how far can she go before she breaks her own heart? 

This is a guilty pleasure type of read.  Actually, it reminded me a bit of Crazy Rich Asians a bit.  It is a tad racy for a YA book… So I’d probably recommend for older YA readers that are 16+


This is the perfect book to pick up during the summer months.  It really gave me modern Little Women crossed with The Secret Garden vibes.  The ending was so heartwarming it almost brought me to tears.

» Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming

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Genre: Adult memoir

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same. 

Despite the fact that this memoir is LONG, I was interested from start to finish.  I adore Michelle Obama and find her so inspiring.


» The Stonekeeper’s Curse (Amulet #2) & The Cloud Searchers (Amulet #3) by Kazu Kibuishi

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Genre: MG fantasy ((graphic novel))

I enjoyed these subsequent installments even more than the first!  The art style is absolutely stunning and I really enjoyed the story line.  I can really see this as a TV series or movie.


» Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

ClapWhenYouLand

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Genre: YA contemporary

Camino Rios lives for the summers when her father visits her in the Dominican Republic. But this time, on the day when his plane is supposed to land, Camino arrives at the airport to see crowds of crying people…

In New York City, Yahaira Rios is called to the principal’s office, where her mother is waiting to tell her that her father, her hero, has died in a plane crash.

Separated by distance – and Papi’s secrets – the two girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. And then, when it seems like they’ve lost everything of their father, they learn of each other.

Papi’s death uncovers all the painful truths he kept hidden, and the love he divided across an ocean. And now, Camino and Yahaira are both left to grapple with what this new sister means to them, and what it will now take to keep their dreams alive.

In a dual narrative novel in verse that brims with both grief and love, award-winning and bestselling author Elizabeth Acevedo writes about the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.

Another 5-star read from Elizabeth Acevedo! Clap When You Land is a heart-wrenching book in verse about loss, betrayal, and forgiveness.


» All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

AllBoysArentBlue

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Genre: YA memoir

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.

Johnson shares his experiences growing up as a queer black boy in this powerful memoir.  I love that Johnson wrote his story for the teen audience.  This is a must read!

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Let'sChat

What are some of your favorite books of 2020 thus far?

Have you read any of my favorites?  If so, what did you think?

Comment below & let me know 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Favorite Books of 2020 (January – June)”

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