2020 in Review, Looking Forward to 2021

Goodbye 2020, and hello to 2021! I’m positive that I’m not the only person looking forward to a new year. Even if the calendar changing doesn’t reset the world, it somehow feels like a fresh start. So, I started this end of the year series in 2017, and I did it in 2018, but I must have missed 2019 (at least I can’t find my own post about it). I used a spreadsheet made by Portal in the Pages on YouTube to track my reading this year.

In 2020 I had some broad goals: read more new releases, read more from POC authors, use my library more/buy less books, and reduce my physical TBR or “to be read” pile of unread books on my shelves. I succeeded in some areas and failed a bit in others.

2020 Statistics

At the start of 2020, I had 59 unread books on my shelves. Throughout the year I borrowed 13 books from my library and bought or was gifted 28 books. By the end of the year I had 49 unread books. So, I reduced my unread pile by 10 despite bringing in 41 new books. I read all of the books I borrowed, and I read most of the new books I bought or was gifted. In 2021 I’d like to reduce my TBR pile even more.

As shown in the first table, I read a total of 50 books this year, just barely making my yearly reading goal. Though I did not finish 3 of the 50, I still counted them toward the total since I read the majority of the books before giving up. I read about 16,951 pages (again, this total counts the DNF’d books) with an average 339 pages per book. I know I read shorter books this year than pervious years. Out of 50 books, my average rating out of 5 stars was 3.6.

As you can see from the table to the right, I read the most books in May when I was off work and feeling kind of good about having to stay home due to the pandemic. Of course, my totals took a steep drop during the rest of the year as work ramped up and my depression reared its ugly head.

The blog definitely reflected these next stats. Almost half of everything I read was fantasy because I love fantasy and needed the escapism. Surprisingly, graphic novels came in second, mainly because I borrowed several from my library at the end of the year to make my reading goal. The number of sci-fi and non-fiction is surprising as I didn’t realize I read that many. Historical fiction and thrillers, usually genres I gravitate toward often, had lower than normal numbers for this year. I didn’t push myself to read anything that I didn’t want to, and I’m already a mood reader, so I unfortunately really stayed in my comfort zone this year.

Lastly, I wanted to read from more diverse authors in 2020. I would say that I used to read from more male authors than female, but in the past few years it has been close to 50/50. You’ll notice that my author gender category has only 48 books counted. This is because two books had more than one author, and I didn’t update the spreadsheet to count books by multiple authors. Only one third of what I read was from POC writers, and I’d like to get this closer to 50/50 next year just to expose myself to different peoples, perspectives, and cultures.

2021 PLANS AND GOALS

So, what are my reading plans for 2021? Well, I’d like to read more books in general. I used to read about 100 books per year, but I’m not in college any more and have less free time, so I’m not sure how realistic 100 books is. However, since another of my goals is to use my library even more, I can borrow more audio and eBooks, which I think will help me reach a higher amount of books read. I actually saved about $150 this year just by borrowing books from the library instead of buying books. Use your library if you can! And if I do buy books, I want to avoid using Amazon and instead buy exclusively from independent bookstores. I started this in 2020, and I plan to continue in 2021 and beyond. As I said earlier in this post, I want to read from more diverse authors again in 2021 as well as continue to read more newer releases. Lastly, I want to read books that have been sitting on my shelves for years and get my physical TBR down to around 20-25 books.

How was your reading in 2020? What are some of your reading goals for 2021?

Fantasy by POC that I Added to my TBR

Hello, friends! Lately I have been compiling a list of fantasy books by people of color to buy after I complete my big move from the U.S. Midwest to the east cost. I wanted to share with all of you some of my top picks as a teaser for what reviews are to come. I know I do not read enough books by non-white authors, and there is no better time than the present to act on changing that! If any of these sound interesting, I encourage you to buy some of them yourself. If you do choose to buy some of these titles, please consider buying them from a black-owned book store that delivers orders by mail (which is also what I will be doing). Now, to the books!

A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell
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Let’s begin with a YA short story collection. I plan to pick up this collection in order to expand my knowledge of various black YA SFF authors. I find short story collections to be a great resource for discovering a taste of a new-to-me author’s work, so that is exactly what I plan to do. A few of the featured authors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Dhonielle Clayton, Jalissa Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Davis, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, Danny Lore, L.L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi.

Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson

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This next book is actually by one of the authors featured in the short story collection above, but this novel is listed as adult fiction instead of YA. This historical fantasy novel takes place in New York City on the cusp of WWII. It follows a girl from Harlem who becomes an assassin in the Manhattan underworld. It sounds like there will be secrets and mysteries to discover, but the book had me at “historical fantasy and assassins in the Manhattan underworld.” Yes, please!

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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I read and reviewed one of this author’s previous novels, Gods of Jade and Shadow, earlier this year. While that novel was about a regular girl having an adventure and falling in love with a god of death, Mexican Gothic is about a woman who answers her newly-married cousin’s desperate letter for help. The cousin’s husband may be the cause of her panic, but there may also be some paranormal or fantasy elements at play too? Either way, count me in! This is another historical fantasy novel, but this time set in the 1950’s Mexican countryside.

Conjure Women by Afia AtakoraCWbyAA

This is another adult historical fantasy. It takes place before the Civil War, but it is also said to span multiple eras and generations. It appears to focus on a few different characters and their struggles during this period of history, but in addition to the historical aspects there are curses and maybe some healing magic? I don’t see many books that feature healing magic, so I’m automatically interested whenever I see one. This book initially caught my eye because of the beautiful cover, but after reading the synopsis, it sounds so unique that I have to give it a try.

Jade City by Fonda Lee

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Jade City is the first book in an adult urban fantasy series that has crime syndicates, magical jade that grants superhuman abilities, and clan wars. I have been looking for some good urban fantasy, and this series sounds like just the thing. It has been out for a little while, but I haven’t heard much about the series elsewhere online despite its favorable reviews on Goodreads. I look forward to forming my own opinion after reading it.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

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This book was inspired by a song called “The Deep” by Daveed Diggs’ rap group, Clipping. This sounds like a hard-hitting adult, historical fantasy, LGBT+ novella from what I have read about it. The descendants of the pregnant slave women who were thrown off of slavers’ ships have become something like sirens or mermaids. Since their past was so traumatic, only one of their kind is tasked with remembering it. The novella follows Yetu’s journey as she discovers her people’s past and leads them toward their future.

2018 in Review, Looking Forward to 2019

Hello, fellow readers! If you’ve been around this blog for a while, you know that I always try to make a looking back and looking forward post at the end or beginning of each year. I love seeing what goals or reading trends other readers have each year, so I thought I would share my own with all of you. I hope you have all had a good reading year in 2018, but even if you did not, here’s hoping 2019 is better for everyone!

In 2018, I found a spreadsheet that I could fill out and track my readings statistics throughout the year. Although I am sure that other readers have made these, I downloaded my template from Portal in the Pages on YouTube. This spreadsheet tracked basic book information, author information, reading statistics, my TBR pile, and much more. This would be a very long post if I shared everything I tracked, so I will share what stats I found most interesting.

2018Stats1.png

To begin with, I read 58 books with a total of 22,579 pages in 2018. This was a decrease from 2017 and 2016 in which I read 79 and 130 books, respectively. I anticipated this decrease in reading because I started a new job and was extremely busy with other things. Overall, I am happy with reading 58 books, but I would like to read more in 2019.

2018Stats2

Of those 58 books, none received 1 star, and eight books received 5 stars. I usually have at least a few 1 star ratings, but I was more picky about what books I read in 2018. This was also my first full year without any required reading for school, so I did not rate many books low since I picked them myself.

2018Stats3

Looking at genre, it was no surprise that I read mostly fantasy this year because that is my go-to genre every year. My second most read genre was historical fiction, which was slightly surprising. Graphic novels followed close behind. One of my 2018 reading goals was to read more nonfiction. I read more than past years, but I am unhappy with how little I read compared to how many more I have on my TBR. I plan to continue my goal of reading more nonfiction in 2019. I was surprised that nearly 10% of my reading was in the horror genre. I’ve been a chicken about horror for most of my life, but I have recently dipped my toe into the genre with pleasant results. So far, I have 10 horror novels on my TBR for 2019, so I am curious how my reading percentages will change next year.

2018Stats4

Another of my 2018 goals was to read more diversely. I noticed in past years that most of the authors I read were white males from the United States or the UK. I would give myself maybe a C+ on this goal. I read more female authors for sure (however, no no-binary authors at all), and I read more books by POC than past years. I would like to read 50/50 white/POC authors in the future. From what I can remember of my reading, most of the POC authors I read were from Asia. I read some books from African American authors, but not as many as I planned to. As you can see from the bottom chart, most authors were from North America, then Europe, followed closely by Asia, and just a sliver from Oceania. In 2019, I hope to read from more different areas of the world and continue to read more female and POC authors. Luckily, women and POC authors are becoming more and more common in my go-to genre of fantasy.

To wrap up, I want to continue with my 2018 goals into 2019. This means reading more diverse authors, more nonfiction, and to branch out of my fiction comfort zones more. I will very likely do another spreadsheet like this next year because I found it extremely interesting to track all of these in-depth stats.

That’s it for me in 2018! See you all next year! 🙂

2017 in Review, Looking Forward to 2018

Welcome to 2018! The end of last year was a bit hectic, so I didn’t get to do many end of the year posts. I did a very similar post last year where I quickly mentioned my favorite and least favorite books and listed a few books I really wanted to read in the new year. Keeping with my new tradition, I will do the same this year!

In 2017 I read 78 books, and only rated 5 books five stars. In 2016 I read 130 books, and I rated 13 books five stars. The top three books I wanted to read in 2017 were The Paper Menageriee by Ken Liu, American Gods by Neil Gaiman, and A Fortune-Teller Told Me by Tiziano Terzani. I read all three of them, and gave them all four or more stars. Not bad! Anyway, below are some of my favorite and least favorite books. If you click on the pictures you can see my reviews for each of them. If you click on the pictures of the books I am excited to read, you will just be taken to their Goodreads page since I have not yet reviewed them!

Here’s to 2018 and all the great books yet to be read. Best wishes to you all, and thanks for reading!

-Jessica

My Favorite Books of 2017:
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My Least Favorite/Most Disappointing Book of 2017:
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Books I am the Most Excited to Read in 2018:
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The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu – Ken Liu, what are you doing? You’re on my most excited list again? Obviously, I loved his short story collection. It made me happy. It made me cry. He is a very good writer. Lately, I have been really craving a good high fantasy (GoT withdrawal). I want to get completely lost in a fantasy world. Will Ken Liu satisfy that craving? Will he also appear on my favorites of 2018 list? Next year will I be excited for another one of his books? Tune in next next year to find out!

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – I wouldn’t say I am excited for this book as much as I just need to read it already. It has been on my TBR for maybe two years. I have not been reading YA much because I feel like I have burned so many times by the hype. I disliked Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy. The magic system and world had potential, but the love triangle and teen angst ruined it for me. Everyone says the Six of Crows Duology is much better. I truly hope it is, but I feel like the YA genre in general is in a rut.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – The hype train has been stationed for a bit for this book too. Honestly, I prefer reading books after the initial excitement has worn down. For a while I was really into multi-generational novels. I read a few in a short amount of time and got tired of them though. Homegoing was a victim of that (as was Pachinko by Min Jin Lee). However, I still want to read it, and I am pretty excited to read more diverse, family-centered novels in 2018. This time I won’t let myself get burnt out on them though…

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

It is about the mid-way point in the year and I’ve seen this tag going around on Youtube every summer for a few years. I thought I would do it because why not? Also, I’m reading a bit slowly right now so I don’t have many new reviews in the works. Doing this tag is stalling, but maybe you’ll enjoy it anyway? Here is the original tag video.

Best book you’ve read so far in 2017:
TRotDbyKIThis has not been the best reading year for me so far. I haven’t had as much time to read as I would like for one thing. From the books I have read I don’t think I have given any 5 stars on Goodreads even though I have read (as of June 29th) 33 books. So, the best book I have read so far this year would have to be a reread and that is The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. I first read this book during my undergraduate studies a few years ago. I liked it then, but I didn’t love it. I don’t think I took the time to really appreciate it back then. I just wanted to read it, do my homework on it, and move on. This time I read it for my M.A. capstone project and I loved it. I appreciated it so much more. I think I loved it because I had been through a lot more “real life” experiences since my first reading and the point of my capstone project was to study unspoken communication and this novel is full of it.

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2017:
I haven’t read that many sequels this year. In fact, I don’t think I have read any sequels of novels at all. I have, however, read a couple of graphic novel volumes. Does that count? Sure, let’s go with that. From the few I have read I have to say that The Complete Chi’s Sweet Home Vol. 3 is the best because who doesn’t love an adorable cartoon cat?

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to:
TBatNbyKAI am terrible at reading new releases. I am a bargain hunter by nature so I usually cannot justify buying a new release at full price when I could wait a bit and find a used copy. That’s great, but then I end up forgetting about the new release or when I do finally buy it for cheap it sits on my shelf for at least a few months, unread. With all that being said, the newest book on my wishlist that I am excited to read is The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. I really don’t know too much about it except that it draws inspiration from Russian fairy tales and looks like a snowy, cozy read.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:
Is the next A Song of Ice and Fire book coming out this year?! Yes? No? Maybe? Does anyone know? Well, besides that I would have to say Jen Campbell’s new short story collection, The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night. Judging by her Youtube channel, Jen and I have similar tastes in books and themes. Her poetry is quite nice, but I’m not big on poetry in general so I was very happy to hear she is coming out with a short story collection that is inspired by fairy tales. I have high hopes!

Biggest disappointment:
I’ve had a few disappointments this year, but I would have to go with River of Ink by Paul M. M. Cooper as the most disappointing. I was expecting a mixture of fantasy/historical aspects with good atmosphere and characters. I got none of that. I was very bored, the story was repetitive, and the characters were bland. I skim read a fair bit of it even though I was on a 16 hour plane ride with nothing else to do. I doubt I will bother to write a review for it because I have so little to say!


Biggest surprise:

PRbyROBPerfume River by Robert Olen Butler. I know I didn’t rate this novel particularly high (~3.5/5), but I was actually impressed by it. I knew it didn’t quite sound like my cup of tea when I picked it up, but I wanted to give it a chance and I am glad I did. I was very impressed by the way Butler wrote character interactions. They felt so damn real and genuine. I have seen conversations in real life go exactly the way he wrote them in the novel. The way he focused on words, actions, and inner thoughts made me understand and empathize with the characters completely. For a novel I wasn’t expecting to love I was very surprise to enjoy it as much as I did. You can read more about this novel in last week’s review.

Favorite new author: (Debut or new to you)
Ottessa Moshfegh. I read her short story collection, Homesick for Another World and was blown away by her ability to construct complex characters and delve into the human psyche. The review for the collection will be up in a few weeks and I just bought her novel Eileen.

Newest fictional crush:
Haha, I don’t think I have a fictional crush?

Newest favorite character:
opcUMTbI had a hard time answering this question. I haven’t really latched onto a character I love in a while. I don’t even remember if I read about this character this year or last year, but I love Ghus from Saga. I love so many Saga characters: Marko/Alana, Klara, Lying Cat, and Izabel to name a few. Ghus is one of those side characters that I can’t get enough of! Not only does he look adorable, but he has a very genuine personality and could surely hurt you if he wanted.

Book that made you cry:
Brothers by Yu Hua. China’s history is sad. This novel is sad. It has its moments of happiness and humor, but when you remember that the events in this novel happened many times over for people… it is hard to imagine. Review to come!

Book that made you happy:
Can I say Chi’s Sweet Home again? Considering I put off reading Vol. 3 until I was in a sad mood it has to be my answer here!

Favorite book to film adaptation you saw this year:
I don’t think I can answer this one as I haven’t seen any movie or TV show adaptations this year.

Favorite review you’ve written this year:
After I (attempt to) proofread my reviews I try not to go back and look at them because I embarrass myself. If I had to pick one in recent memory I would pick my review of Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. I don’t think my opinion was anything special or new, but I feel like I did a decent job of outlining my thoughts.

Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year:
CTbyKFThis is probably a very predictable answer, but the book of Celtic Tales I reviewed a month or so back is the most beautiful book I’ve bought this year. You can read my review of the edition, but it doesn’t do the book much justice. Kate Forrester does the illustrations and I hope beyond hope more editions are released that focus on other cultures and are also illustrated by her.

 

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
There are a lot of books I need to read by the end of the year, but my main goal is to finish some series. I kind of hate series because even if I read one book from a series and dislike it I feel the need to finish the series. This wastes so much of my reading time on books that I dislike or just think are OK. I could simply DNF a book or series, but what if it gets better?! Anyway, by the end of the year I really want to finish the His Dark Materials series and the second book in the Keeper of Tales series, The Chronicle of Secret Riven. I am also debating on whether or not I want to finish The Lunar Chronicles series. I really thought I would enjoy The Lunar Chronicles, but after finishing Cinder and Scarlet and only giving them 2.5-3 stars I don’t know if I want to devote the time to read two more very large books that I may not enjoy that much.

2016 in Review, Looking Forward 2017

2016 was a rough year for just about everyone. On a personal level 2016 wasn’t too bad for me until the very end. Reading-wise I had a good year though. According to Goodreads I read 130 books in 2016 with thirteen 5 star reads and almost fifty 4 star reads. Considering how picky I am about my 5 star ratings I would say that is pretty good! I am going to very quickly mention my favorite and least favorite books and also talk about a few books I am looking forward to reading in 2017 (but not necessarily being published in 2017). Since I’ve already talked about these books you can click on the pictures for my written reviews. I hope everyone had a good year and here’s to an even better 2017!

My Favorite Books of 2016:
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My Least Favorite Book of 2016:
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Books I am the Most Excited to Read in 2017:
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The Paper Menagerie by Ken Liu – This is a short story collection that I haven’t seen around too much, but I did see a review by The Poptimist after I had already decided I needed this book. From what I know, this collection is a mixture of Chinese culture, mythology, speculative fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman – Gaiman is easily one of my favorite authors, but I haven’t read one of his most famous novels. I want to correct this in 2017. I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while, but I’ve been afraid to read because what if I don’t like it? I have such high expectations that I’m afraid that it won’t measure up and I’ll be disappointed. It’s silly to feel that way, I know.

A Fortune-Teller Told Me by Tiziano Terzani – One of my goals for 2017 is to read more nonfiction. My favorite kind of nonfiction is anything weird, really. Real life stories that are “stranger than fiction” or cultural/mystic/myth heavy  reads. I heard about this book from Jen Campbell and I instantly added to my wishlist. The author is warned about flying by a fortune-teller and he decides to take the advice to heart. He decides to explore many unknown corners of the world. This leads him down a rabbit hole of predictions from other fortune-tellers, soothsayers, and shamans

My Top 5 Reads of 2015

2015 was a great year of reading for me. According to my Goodreads “Year in Books” I read 82 books, 28,187 pages, and rated those books an average of 3.4 out 5 of stars. That rating is slightly skewed because I read a lot of books that were required for class and it is rare for them to get a high rating unfortunately. Out of those 82 books which ones were my favorites?


 Honorable Mentions

  • Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

This is a book by a blogger which might not sound good, but it is a fantastic read. I have never read Lawson’s blog, but buying her book is a risk that paid off for me. Maybe check out her blog to see if you like her writing style before you invest time and money into it. Furiously Happy is a humorous look at coping with mental illness and life in general. I laughed out loud multiple times and I could relate to many things Lawson writes about. Though I like this book a lot I like, but when it came to making this list I simply like other things I read this year a bit better.

  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

This is a kind of graphic memoir that is also by a blogger. I’ve been a fan of Brosh’s blog for quite some time so it is no surprise that I enjoy her book so much. If you don’t like her humor then you most likely will not like this so again I suggest viewing her blog  before you buy/try it. Brosh writes mostly about growing up and her struggles with mental health. (Definitely a pattern here.) My only real issue with the book is that there isn’t enough new content for old fans of her writing. Maybe about half of the stories are already published on her blog. Though I’m glad new fans still get to experience my old favorites I want more new stuff!


Number Five

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first audio book I have ever listened to. After listening I knew I had to buy the physical copy and the other two books in the series. This book haunted me for weeks after I read it. It was a chilling mystery with somewhat slow building plot. For most of the year I had this book rated as four stars. I loved the plot and the characters, but something kept it from being a five star read. However, it is now December and I can’t remember what that thing was. Also, I have spent most of the year craving another book like this one. For those reasons I upped my rating to five and it has a solid place on this list.


 Number Four

  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This is the first book I read in 2015 and it put the year off to a great start. It is about a man who is recounting his childhood adventures. The lines of reality and fantasy are often blurred in his retelling. This book is always interesting, often funny, and sometimes sad. I love the plot, the atmosphere, and every character in this book. It makes me nostalgic for my childhood and for my time spent reading the book every time I think of it.


 Number Three

  • Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman

Such a fun and amazing read! This book is my first experience with Pratchett’s writing. He is one author I know I will love, but I just don’t know what to start with from him. Good Omens is about the apocalypse which includes the four horsemen and the Antichrist, of course. I absolutely love the writing, the humor, and just… everything. By the end the only thing I wanted from it was more of everything.


 Number Two

  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This book got me out of a reading slump and made me fall in love with reading all over again. It is also the first book I reviewed on this blog. It is absolutely beautiful. It isn’t perfect, but I love it. The atmosphere is breath taking and the plot is a slow burning, but beautiful tale. You can read more in depth thoughts on this in my full review. I’m so glad I read this book because it is now one of my all time favorite reads.


 Number One

  • Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples

This. Is. Amazing. I love everything about this series. Everything. Two lovers from opposing sides of a galactic war fall in love and hilarity and drama ensues. It may not sound original or even interesting, but it is. IT IS. The character are so alive. While reading (and rereading) I laughed, I cried, and I fell in love. The art is great and the writing is so sharp. There may be a lot of hype around this series, but I think it measures up to it easily. My full review says a lot more about it, but damn it was great.


 I look forward to another great year of reading in 2016.I already have a lot of books from Christmas that I can’t wait to jump into. I hope I can keep up with this blog and have another Top 5 next year! Happy New Year and here’s to 2016!