Our Favorite 2020 Reads So Far

And just like that, we’re a quarter of the way through 2020. I don’t think this year is shaping up how anyone thought it would. In January, we were in the process of getting inventory and doing a ton of planning to open up. Crazy, right? 

Even though we were super busy in the first part of this year, we’ve managed to make it through a combined 18 books and audiobooks between the two of us. Here are a few of our favorites: 

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Description: Young Hiram Walker was born into bondage. When his mother was sold away, Hiram was robbed of all memory of her—but was gifted with a mysterious power. Years later, when Hiram almost drowns in a river, that same power saves his life. This brush with death births an urgency in Hiram and a daring scheme: to escape from the only home he’s ever known.

So begins an unexpected journey that takes Hiram from the corrupt grandeur of Virginia’s proud plantations to desperate guerrilla cells in the wilderness, from the coffin of the Deep South to dangerously idealistic movements in the North. Even as he’s enlisted in the underground war between slavers and the enslaved, Hiram’s resolve to rescue the family he left behind endures.

Alyssa’s thoughts: I listened to this book on audiobook, and I’ll admit it was a change of pace for me. I need action-packed audiobooks to keep my attention, and I wouldn’t say this book was action-packed. The narrator was incredible, though, and I love the personality he gave to Hiram. The story is historical fiction meets magic, and I enjoyed the blending. I gave this book 4.5/5 stars. 

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez

Description: Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family. But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.

Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.

But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?

Alyssa’s thoughts: This was a hygge book club pick (can’t wait to get that back up and running after all of this!) and one of the first YA books I’ve read in a long while. I thought Sanchez did a great job of describing how depression and anxiety can feel in high school, I loved learning more about Mexican culture and I loved how imperfect the main character was. At times you were frustrated with Julia, but you were always rooting for her. I gave this one 4.5/5 stars. 

ARTEMIS by Andy Weir

Description: Jasmine Bashara never signed up to be a hero. She just wanted to get rich. Not crazy, eccentric-billionaire rich, like many of the visitors to her hometown of Artemis, humanity’s first and only lunar colony. Just rich enough to move out of her coffin-sized apartment and eat something better than flavored algae. 

So when a chance at a huge score finally comes her way, Jazz can’t say no. Sure, it requires her to graduate from small-time smuggler to full-on criminal mastermind. And it calls for a particular combination of cunning, technical skills, and large explosions—not to mention sheer brazen swagger. But Jazz has never run into a challenge her intellect can’t handle, and she figures she’s got the ‘swagger’ part down.

The trouble is, engineering the perfect crime is just the start of Jazz’s problems. Because her little heist is about to land her in the middle of a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself. Trapped between competing forces, pursued by a killer and the law alike, even Jazz has to admit she’s in way over her head. She’ll have to hatch a truly spectacular scheme to have a chance at staying alive and saving her city.

Garrett’s thoughts: I needed this book. It brought me back. It was engrossing enough to allow me to shut my brain off from the rest of the world. Andy Weir ( who also wrote The Martian) has a way with making Sci-Fi feel so real. I could see myself on Artemis. Mix in some murder and corporate greed and I was hooked. Also, shoutout to Weir for having a female lead that breaks through a ton of stereotypes. Jazz is smart, foul mouthed and very blunt. A total breath of fresh air.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Description: Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. Dumas’ epic tale of suffering and retribution, inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment, was a huge popular success when it was first serialized in the 1840s.

Alyssa’s thoughts: What an epic book. I love a good classic, and this one easily became one of my all time favorites, despite its incredibly daunting length. I loved Dumas’ writing style – it was surprisingly humorous and approachable. The story was detailed and gripping and I loved that it explored the idea of revenge – and how easily you can be corrupted by it. I gave this one 4.5/5 stars, only because I didn’t like how the original love story in the book ended.

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Description: On a hot summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant and Cecilia’s childhood friend. But Briony’ s incomplete grasp of adult motives–together with her precocious literary gifts–brings about a crime that will change all their lives. As it follows that crime’s repercussions through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century, Atonement engages the reader on every conceivable level, with an ease and authority that mark it as a genuine masterpiece.

Alyssa’s thoughts: I think this is a near perfect novel. I love the movie with Kiera Knightly and James McAvoy, but this was my first time reading the book that inspired it all. I loved every minute of it. I loved how complex the characters are, how beautiful McEwan’s writing is, and the ending is just perfectly heartbreaking to me. This story might just be a 5/5 for me. 

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