Favorite Reads of 2020 (Plus a 2020 Reading Recap)

Hello book nerds! Surprise, it’s my favorite 2020 reads!

I know, I know. I’m kind of late. December has been hectic and was a little stressful, so I never got around to writing and publishing this one. But hey, I’m here now, and ready to share my favorite reads of 2020! A fair warning though, I meant to keep this list up to 15 books only. But I couldn’t (????) I just can’t, please don’t make me *cries* In my defense, these are all great books that truly left a mark on me this 2020. Books that made my 2020 a little bit better, books that made my 2020 a little brighter.

So without further ado, here are my favorite reads of 2020!

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Book Review: The Fever King

Title: The Fever King
Author: Victoria Lee
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Series:
Feverwake #1
Genre/s and tags: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia, Bisexual rep, POC, Racism, M/M romance, OwnVoices
Content warnings: Graphic descriptions of death, violence, and murder, mentions of sex, drugs, alcohol/lots of drinking, rape, lots of swearing. For a much more detailed list, see this content warning post from the author themself
Goodreads synopsis:

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good.

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Book nerds, it’s my first ever 5-star read of 2020! 

The Fever King surprised me! I never thought it would be so captivating—from the prose, to the plot, the characters, and the romance. But here I am, with my mind still reeling. I love it!

Excellent writing style

I am an absolute fan of the writing style of this book! The prose is sharp, but also kind of mellow, the kind that will grab hold of your emotions no matter what the scene is. The author used a lot of metaphors, but that just made the imagery and the tone so excellent.

Great characters and romance

The characters are just captivating; whether it be a major character or a minor character, and whether it be a protagonist or an antagonist (and to be honest, it’s so hard to grasp who is the hero and who is the villain, and I love that!).

I love Noam! He’s sassy, and brave, and so determined to help the situation of the refugees. Dara, on the other hand, is cold, intelligent, yet he can also be so loving and hopeful. I wish these two just would have just talked more to avoid their miscommunications, but of course, their journey is slow and angsty. Lehrer was such an interesting character, too, and he made the plot all the more interesting.

The romance is also one of my favorite things in this book! It’s slow burn, with a lot of tension and angst! At the end of the book, I was left wanting more. (I just want more of Noam and Dara, please.)

Unpredictable plot

The Fever King is full of twists and turns and I was truly invested with the plot from start to finish. There were times when I thought I knew what was happening or that I was right about my predictions, but I was wrong and the author was able to surprise me with every plot twist.

I love how the plot focused on politics, racism, and immigrants and refugees trying. I know this is such an important and relevant topic, especially in the US, and to have that as a main focus of the story is enlightening.

Awesome world-building

The world-building in The Fever King is also intriguing. It’s set in a “former United States”, and although the place is quite the same, there are differences with the timelines, the history, and of course, the presence of the viral magic. I wish we’ll get to know more about how that viral magic started as well!

Quotes from the book

“The whole world was a sea of data, so many electrical impulses sparking from pockets and tablets and streetlights and cameras and drones. It was like someone had plugged in a cord and turned on the galaxy.”

“History is written by the victors.”

“If Noam kissed him right now, Dara would think Noam was just like everyone else. And maybe Noam wasn’t special, bu he wanted to be.”

“And I meant it when I said I wasn’t gay,” Noam said. Ames looked disbelieving, but she didn’t pull away. Noam smirked. “Bisexual isn’t gay.”

“Dara, who claimed he hated everything but secretly dreamed of counting the stars.”


 

I never thought I’d love this book so much! Definitely including this one to my 20 LGBTQ+ Books in 2020 reading challenge!

How about you guys? Have you read The Fever King yet? What were your thoughts?

ARC Review: Woven in Moonlight [Blog Tour]

Title: Woven in Moonlight
Author: Isabel Ibañez
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Genre/s and Tags: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, POC
Release date: January 7, 2020
Publisher: Page Street Publishing
ISBN: 9781624148019
Goodreads synopsis:

A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.

Ximena is the decoy Condesa, a stand-in for the last remaining Illustrian royal. Her people lost everything when the usurper, Atoc, used an ancient relic to summon ghosts and drive the Illustrians from La Ciudad. Now Ximena’s motivated by her insatiable thirst for revenge, and her rare ability to spin thread from moonlight.

When Atoc demands the real Condesa’s hand in marriage, it’s Ximena’s duty to go in her stead. She relishes the chance, as Illustrian spies have reported that Atoc’s no longer carrying his deadly relic. If Ximena can find it, she can return the true aristócrata to their rightful place.

She hunts for the relic, using her weaving ability to hide messages in tapestries for the resistance. But when a masked vigilante, a warm-hearted princess, and a thoughtful healer challenge Ximena, her mission becomes more complicated. There could be a way to overthrow the usurper without starting another war, but only if Ximena turns her back on revenge—and her Condesa.

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Hi book nerds! Welcome to my stop on the Woven in Moonlight Blog Tour hosted by The Royal Polar Bear Reads! Thanks so much Raf and Page Street Publishing for sending me a digital review copy!

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez is described as “A lush tapestry of magic, romance, and revolución, drawing inspiration from Bolivian politics and history.”  and to be honest, I have never come across such a perfect and accurate synopsis/description of a book. Everything is lush and gripping—from the writing style, to the characters, the immersive plot, and the incredible world-building. I absolutely loved it!

Great writing style

The writing style was great. I loved how the author narrated to the story from the littlest of details to the grander perspective. As a reader, I was shown a rich culture, a complex history of land and people, a harmful game of war and politics, a slow-burn romance, the process of learning to overcome judgment, and more. It was so good and I was hooked the moment I read the first page.

Remarkable characters

I loved the characters in this book! Ximena is a strong-willed character full of hope and heart, she’s also intelligent and brave. I loved reading the story through her perspective. I also found her very interesting, especially her struggle to be her true self. She’s a decoy, a stand-in, and as a result, she needs to act like the Condesa, think like the Condesa, not herself. I have to say, it was incredibly satisfying to see her finally show her true self.

Rumi is a charmer. He seems aloof at first, but we get to see more of him and know more of his agenda, is desires, and his loyalty as the story progresses.

The minor characters are memorable as well! There’s Juan Carlos, Tamaya, El Lobo, Catalina, Suyana, the priest, and even the woolly animals! For me, they helped build the story and it really wouldn’t be the same without them.

Immersive plot

Here’s what I really like about the plot of Woven in Moonlight: it’s entertaining, it’s compelling, and best of all, it’s cohesive—everything makes sense and the flow of the story was just smooth and well-written. There were some plot twists I didn’t see (but loved), and there were some that were just obvious (but I still loved!).

I also love how the story provokes an inner battle in choosing between right or wrong and knowing the different shades of morality when it comes to war and politics.

As for the romance, I loved it! It was not rushed, which is something I really appreciate when it comes to romantic pairings in books. And although the romance affected the plot, it’s not the main part of the story. It didn’t steal the show, nor did it become something that will badly impact the characters or the story.

Incredible world-building

The world-building in Woven in Moonlight is nothing but incredible. From the food, to the language, to the culture, to the politics and history, the author really managed to show the readers the bad, the good, and the beautiful sides of a Bolivian-inspired world.

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This book is one of a kind, indeed. Also, that cover is gorgeous! I definitely loved it even more when I found out that the author is also the cover artist! How awesome is that?! 5 stars for this wonderful book!

Woven in Moonlight Buy Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble Google Play | Book Depository

About the Author

ibanez author image Isabel Ibañez was born in Boca Raton, Florida, and is the proud daughter of two Bolivian immigrants. A true word nerd, she received her degree in creative writing and has been a Pitch Wars mentor for three years. Isabel is an avid movie goer and loves hosting family and friends around the dinner table. She currently lives in Winter Park, Florida, with her husband, their adorable dog, and a serious collection of books. Say hi on social media at @IsabelWriter09.

Book Review: Ninth House

Title: Ninth House
Author: Leigh Bardugo
My rating:⭐⭐⭐⭐💫
Series:
Alex Stern #1
Genre/s: Adult, Murder Mystery, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal/Supernatural, Thriller
Goodreads synopsis:

The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

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Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I adore Leigh Bardugo with all my heart. So when she announced Ninth House her debut adult novel, I was beyond excited! I loved her YA works and I was excited and curious to just what she could bring to the table for her adult debut.

Following Ninth House‘s release, I’ve heard a lot of great things, some that are not-so-great (mostly about the slow pace), and some content warnings from others. I was excited and nervous at the same time. But now that I’ve read it, here’s what I can say:

Ninth House is a deliciously dark read—one that can make you feel weary one moment, then grab hold of your emotions and ensnare you the next.

Content warnings: Gore, blood, drug abuse, child rape, sex (or acts and things relating to sex), sexual assault/non-consensual acts of sex, murder (graphic descriptions of dead bodies and actual acts of murder). These are not to be taken lightly.

Excellent writing style

Loved Bardugo’s writing style here in Ninth House. The story is told in alternating timelines; one from the past (last fall) and the other from the present (winter to early spring). I absolutely loved how every chapter is entwined with the next one even if they’re told from different timelines. It’s haunting, it’s raw, it’s dark, but also a bit gloomy.

I also loved how the author was able to show people, as in real people and their real struggles. People trying to get by and survive every single day, people trying to forget about their horrific past, people doing something they shouldn’t because of enough motive or reward, mean people and the mean things they do to others, women trying to survive in a world dominated by men, and more.

Captivating characters

The author treated her characters with such regard and she built them bit by bit with every backstory, every detail, every word and language they spoke, every thought, every logic and reasoning. The result was captivating characters you couldn’t just get enough of.

Alex, oh my dear namesake, is full of sorrow and fear and snark and such tenacity that can only be blamed on the years she spent trying to survive. I loved how I kept finding new details about her all throughout the book, like there’s always something that will surprise you just when you thought you already knew her.

Darlington is a pleasant character that had me yearning for more. In the book, he’s described as the “gentleman of Lethe” and that’s exactly what he is. He’s intelligent, talented, charming, full of passion, and I could even say righteous (because he is, I swear!). I’m excited to see what the next book has in store for his character.

Minor characters also made the story so intriguing including Dawes, Detective Turner, Dean Sandow, Professor Belbalm, and of course, the Bridegroom.

Intricate plot

In a way, this book feels like a darker, bolder episode of Supernatural (you know, the one about two brothers fighting ghosts, ghouls, monsters, and witches, the show I’m particularly fond of, the show that’s already on its last season, but anyway, no one needs to know about my other woes). It’s a murder mystery entangled with the occult and all paranormal things.

It’s definitely slow-paced, and one might think it’s going nowhere or nothing’s happening, but as for me, I really like how the plot took some time to brew. I felt like there are so many details, so much stories to absorb. There are certain parts of the book when I thought “these don’t matter/these don’t seem like a big deal”, but I read on and they do. Whether it is something to add to the plot later or something to build the character.

Exquisite world-building

The world-building in Ninth House is just so exquisite. The dark magic, the secret societies, the supernatural—all of it is just so alluring and atmospheric and I can’t help but fall in love with it.

Most of the chapters have these “excerpts” in the beginning, taken from diaries and manuals regarding the societies, their history, and their magic. I loved it so much and it definitely helped me as a reader paint a picture of these secret societies.

Of course, there’s also mythology and magic embedded in the story, and I’m excited for more in the next book!

Quotes from the book

“Mors irrumat omnia. Death fucks us all.”

“All you children playing with fire, looking surprised when the house burns down.”

“I want to survive this world that keeps trying to destroy me.”

“Not every flower belongs in every garden.”

“And maybe he wanted her to be the kind of girl who dressed as Queen Mab, who loved words and had stars in her blood.”

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Overall, definitely a great read for me! An excellent book to end my year and the decade! How about you guys, have you read Ninth House already? What did you think?

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Series Review

Hi book nerds! Back with another review, but this time it’s for a series! And guess what, it’s a reread!

Earlier this year, I promised myself I would reread the Percy Jackson and the Olympians (which is my absolute favorite right next to Harry Potter). I first read the series when I was in high school (a little over 7 or 8 years ago, AACCKK). I’ve had my own set since last year and I finally completed collecting the graphic novel editions, so really, a reread is a must. And so, this November, I committed myself into this promise! And y’all, it’s a success! (See the thread of my live tweets for some serious fangirling moments and commentary here!)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Here are my thoughts on the books! (Warning: there will be spoilers!)

 

Book 1: The Lightning Thief

This book just never gets old! I first read this series back in high school and my love for it never diminished.

I loved getting to know the characters once again! Percy, Grover, and Annabeth. Seeing all of them get to know each other, go on a journey, and be a team is awesome! Made me feel a little bit nostalgic, too. I also love how the writing style makes it seem like I really am in the book, going on an adventure with this trio.

Loved the plot, of course. There’s a blend of magical stuff and pretty normal teenage issues, and that was great for me. There are prophecies and mythology, but there’s also family issues. I’m reminded that these characters are just kids, and they’ll be going through some typical human problems as well.

And of course, I couldn’t help but think of the movie adaptation. It’s just so different to the books, and well. Books are better, anyway.

Book 2: Sea of Monsters

I’m gonna be honest. I had so much more fun with this than The Lightning Thief! And I don’t know if this is because the story’s more captivating or I just don’t remember much of it after reading it for the first time several years ago.

Sea of Monsters was jam-packed! There are more stuff about Greek mythology (from the creatures, to the stories, to the heroes and villains, and the gods), the bigger plot and the prophecy is finally revealed to Percy, plus the characters are also a highlight (Tyson appearing and worming his way onto Percy’s life, Annabeth opening up more about herself, Clarisse trusting Percy and working with him). It was all so good and every element worked well together. I also loved that it’s humorous but also philosophical at the same time.

In this book, I also realized that Percy really did have the makings of a villain, or at the very least, a bad guy. He’s powerful (and still has more potential in the coming years), sassy, insecure, and can also be prideful at times. What makes him different though, is he’s still compassionate. He trusts people and sees kindness, and he takes the time to reflect and he admits his flaws, his doubts, and wrongdoings. I’m pretty sure we have Sally Jackson to thank for that.

Also, can I just say, that ending?! It’s truly brilliant and so well executed that I still had goosebumps even though I already knew exactly what was coming. It’s so good! Loved this!

(And yes, I’m still so mad that the movie adaptation changed and omitted so many details from the book. Ugh.)

Book 3: Titan’s Curse

Titan’s Curse is another amazing journey and it’s only getting us closer to the big prophecy, the gods and the titans, the looming final battle, everything.

We meet several new characters and it was so fun going on a journey with these new people here in this third book! Zoe Nightshade (bless her), Bianca di Angelo (oh, Bianca), Nico di Angelo (a.k.a. one of my favorite characters from the PJO universe), and of course Thalia! It was so exciting to finally see Thalia in action and get to know her, seeing as in the two previous books she was just this character in a backstory. But she’s here in Titan’s Curse and she definitely left a mark on me.

Also, Percy and Thalia’s dynamic was just so good. I remember thinking about something Annabeth had said in the Sea of Monsters

“Percy, you know who you remind me the most? Thalia. You guys are so much alike it’s scary. I mean, either you would’ve been best friends or you would’ve strangled each other.”

Thalia and Percy were both powerful, dangerous, loyal, insecure, and somehow, even just for a little bit, waiting for a chance to prove themselves to their fathers. I wish there were more scenes with them, actually. I would have loved to see them actually team up and just obliterate anyone who was on their way. They’d be the perfect duo!

Of course, what really amazes me the most is Riordan’s storytelling—the way he weaved the plot and tied it all up perfectly at the end. Even if I’ve already read Titan’s Curse, I still got shocked, I still held my breath, I still anticipated for the next things to come. This, for me, is just awesome.

There was also a part near the end where Athena tells Percy what his fatal flaw is, and wow. I just loved it so much! She nailed it! Percy’s fatal flaw can truly be a good thing or a bad thing, and I’m reminded just how much I love his character.

Such a great book! So excited for the next one!

Book 4: Battle of the Labyrinth

Second to the last book in the series! Battle of the Labyrinth was a fun and heartfelt read—with new characters, great plot twists, and a couple of moral lessons that will really stick with the reader.

There were new characters like Rachel Elizabeth Dare, Quintus, Briares, Calypso that really left an impression on me (I mean, they already did the first time I read the book,  but it felt more significant this time). Loved that we got to see more of Nico and we saw just how his character developed in this book. Now, I’m just so excited to see more of him in the next books and series. And of course, the tension between Annabeth and Percy! Our main characters are entering teenage years and here come the feelings. Percy was so daft, it’s endearing.

I also love how there were a couple of plot twists that I still missed. I mean, I read this book years ago, so I guess my memory is now kind of fuzzy. But wow, Uncle Rick really never fails to surprise me. I love it!

Also, when I first read this book, I never quite realized just how much of a theme the environment was in the story. Grover’s journey, Pan’s message, everything was so heartbreaking and enlightening as to how humans are treating and should be treating the wild, the earth.

“The wild, my dear Grover, is so small now, so shattered, that no god can save it.”

“Remake the wild, a little at a time, each in your own corner of the world. You cannot wait for anyone else, even a god, to do that for you.”

Another theme that was a highlight for me in this book is family. With Sally meeting Paul, Daedalus with his son and his nephew, the tales about Hera and her “family”, Nico and her sister Bianca, and even Rachel with her dad or Dionysus with his sons. All of these parts involved family—both the good, the bad, and the ugly—and I just really adore that.

I really loved this one. We’re close to the end and I can’t wait!

Book 5: The Last Olympian

THIS BOOK IS A MASTERPIECE. I have no words except for two: home and hope. For me, these two words perfectly embody The Last Olympian.

Here, we get to see the importance of home, of family—and not just the family by blood, but also family by choice. The ugly sides of family were shown as well, and the fact that just because someone is your family doesn’t mean they’re always right or always good.

There’s also hope, so much hope. For the future, for the much needed change, for the environment, for the camp, for the families. It also showed us just how w should keep the hope and to never give it up. I loved it so much.

When it comes to the characters, they have grown so much here, especially Percy. From his powers and abilities, to his attitude and thinking, Percy has grown into a hero. Another amazing character development for me is Clarisse. I loved her arc throughout the series, and seeing her character in this final book is just great!

The plot, of course, was just… I don’t even have the right word to describe it, but it was so well-written, so well thought of, and it’s just the perfect ending to a great series for me.

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Rereading this series was an amazing experience. Yes, I’ve read it before, but everything was just as great, just as chilling, and just as exciting. This is truly a wonderful series from such a great and talented author. Love you Uncle Rick!

And now, I must delve into the graphic novel editions of Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Ciao!

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