Best and Worst Books I Read in 2020

I can’t believe 2020 is almost over! I love to take the last few weeks of each year to look over all the books I’ve read, from the best to the worst. Today I thought I would share 5 of my favorites and 5 of my least favorites I read this year. While not all of these were published in 2020, most of them were.

Let’s get into it!

Dead Astronauts

1 Star!

This book was published in Dec. of 2019, so almost this year. It’s a speculative sci-fi which follows three individuals on a strange planet as they experience everything. I did a full review for this book early this year, if you want to read more of my thoughts on this book.

Basically, it felt like a drug trip and nothing about the world or characters made sense. I’m thinking I just might not like Vandermeer’s writing, but I may give his books another chance before I decide that for certain. I know his biggest series is Southern Reach, so maybe I’ll try reading the first book of that.

Definitely not my type of book, and I really disliked it.

The Sun Down Motel

5 Stars!

This book was published in Feb. of 2020, and was my first St. James book. It tells the story of a girl whose aunt was a night motel worker who vanished several decades ago. The girl goes to the same motel to find out what happened to her aunt. The story is told through the perspectives of both the girl Carly and her aunt Viv.

This book was exceptional to me! Not only was the creepy atmosphere perfect, but the characters were intriguing and the mystery was engaging. Even the more supernatural elements, which I know some people disliked, were interesting to me.

I also did a full review on this book.

How Quickly She Disappears

1 star!

Published in Jan. 2020, this book was compared to Silence of the Lambs, which is one of my favorite thrillers ever! However, it did not live up to the hype. Set during WWII, it follows a woman living in rural Alaska who is visited by a mysterious pilot. He brutally murders a man and is arrested, only to refuse to speak to anyone but the woman Elisabeth. And he’s got knowledge about her sister, who vanished when she was a young child.

There were several reasons I didn’t like this book, but they mainly revolve around the book feeling modern despite being set in the 194os, and Elisabeth’s stupidity. I mean, I swear most of the bad things would not have happened in the book if she had not been an idiot in every situation!

The Library of Legends

5 Stars!

This book came out in May of 2020, and is possibly my favorite book this year! It’s a historical, fantasy novel set just prior to WWII, when the Japanese were bombing China. Nanking is under attack, and the students of Minghua University must walk 1,000 miles to safety, taking with them the precious library of Legends, a collection of old mythology books of gods and spirits.

I loved this book! The lush historical detail, the moving character stories, the hope in dark times, the fantasy elements mixed with reality, and the mix between mystery, romance, and fantasy. I’m surprised that the book is 400 pages, because I felt like I whizzed through it. I honestly couldn’t put it down. Usually I think books of this length could have been edited down more, but I wouldn’t take a single scene out of this one. Despite it having a massive array of background characters, the few basic main characters kept the narrative easy to follow and each background character was developed enough to make them feel real. Even the ending I was really pleased with, as I kept expecting the book to take so many different turns than it did.

I did a full review on this book as well.

The Wrong Mr. Darcy

1 Star!

This book was released in Aug. 2020. It’s a retelling of Pride and Prejudice, though it’s semblance to the original is pretty scant. It tells of sports’ reporter Hara Isari, who runs into arrogant basketball star Derek Darcy.

This book is kind of a mess. First of all, it’s one of those books which wants to use a popular classic to generate sales but not actually put in meaningful connections to the classic besides quirky quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Second, there is way too much going on for me to care about anything, and because of that everything feels so shallow. The worst part is there were interesting themes mentioned in this book that were just swept under the rug and ignored. The romance was painful to read about, as it went from 1 to 100 but never in between. Everything interesting that could have made this book interesting felt like a backdrop to nothing…just nothing.

I did a full review recently.

Outrun the Moon

5 Stars!

Published in 2016, this book tells of a daughter of Chinese immigrants in 1906 San Francisco, who blackmails her way into attending a wealthy girls school, just as a massive earthquake is about to hit the city.

I loved this book, and I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. There is this perfect balance between seriousness and humor, sadness and hope. While it tackles the really serious topics of racism, grief, and poverty, it is not a hopeless tale, but one of happiness and success in the face of oppression and hopelessness. It is a rare thing, I find, for a book to achieve such a perfect balance between strife and victory, and this book does it perfectly while still including common tropes found in YA fiction like friendships and romance.

I did a full review on my blog.

Pretty Girls

1 Star!

Published in 2015, this is one of Slaughter’s most popular books. I’ve been interested in getting into her writing because she’s so popular, but this book was just so bad. It tells about a woman whose sister vanished years ago. Now another girl vanishes in a case very similar to her sister’s case.

I ended up DNFing this book halfway through, so this review will be based off the first half. I really had trouble getting into this book. At first, it was because it skipped between three different perspectives. But later on it was more because of the lack of realism. I understand some books don’t want to be realistic, but this book seems to try to be realistic when it doesn’t feel like it. All the characters but Claire and Lydia fit in a neat box of stereotypes. I was usually about five to ten steps ahead of the characters about what was going on, mostly because all the characters were predictable. I even jumped forward to the end to see if I was right on the murderer and yep, I was. The suspense and story was interesting, but the writing felt slow and the clues too obvious.

Marley and Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog

5 Stars!

Published way back in 2005, this book follows the misadventures of Marley, an adorable Labrador retriever, and his family including John Grogan himself.

Anyone who has ever owned and loved a dog will relate to this book, and that includes me. I loved it. The narrative was entertaining and moving, and even with the simplest stories I was drawn into the life of Marley. It’s a sweet tale, and one I admit I cried and laughed for most of. It’s one of those books that speaks to a deeper part of your heart if you’re a dog lover, and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

The Boy from the Woods

2 Stars!

Not quite 1 star, but close enough. Published in March 2020, this book tells of a boy discovered in the woods with no memory of how he got there. Years later, he is drawn into a mystery of a girl who goes missing.

I’m not exactly sure why I couldn’t get into this book, but I found it so boring and slow-moving until maybe the last chapters. There were several things I thought lessened my enjoyment. There were a lot of conflicts and mysteries introduced (like a missing girl, a boy found in the woods as a child, government corruption), but never did the stakes feel high. I never felt like none of it was important. Every time I thought the conflict would rise and I would be invested, a twist defused the situation. There was also a lot of time spent on side plots (like Hester’s romance), that I could not care at all for. The ending was decent, I will admit, but a book’s conflict should build slowly over the course of the book, not be thrown in at the end like an afterthought.

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly

5 Stars!

Published in 2000, this is a heartwarming Korean novel about a hen who dreams of laying an egg and becoming a mother. When she discovers a duck egg, she raises it as her own.

I am always intrigued by books which try to tell meaningful, human stories through the eyes of animals. Just look at Watership Down and Animal Farm. Despite this book being a pretty simple story, it imparts surprisingly deep messages. The characters have basic motivations (Greentop wants to be part of a group, Sprout wants to have a baby, etc.), and yet they are all understandable. The illustrations are plain but sweet, and the story is short, but the themes are incredibly meaningful.

I did a full review on this one as well.

I was happy with how many great books I read this year, even if there were some disappointments as well.

I also did this video on Youtube!

Have you read any of these books? Do any of them look interesting to you? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

9 thoughts on “Best and Worst Books I Read in 2020

  1. None of them, I read. I thought a read one of my favorite fantasies this year, but it could have been another year. I am very bad at stars when it comes to reviews.

    As for the ones I remember:

    2 stars- Anna Karenina only gets two stars due to enjoying one subplot. That is why I didn’t get the book 1 star.

    5 stars- I loved all the Shades of Magic this year and that was my favorite fantasy series of this year

    4 stars- His Dark Materials series

    4 stars- I think this is more of a 4.5- Mayor of Casterbridge

    5 stars- Bleak House. Loved all the Dickens books I read

    5 stars- A Christmas Treasury. That is for the entire collection of short stories and poems

    5 stars- Secret Garden. It almost does feel like a Fairy Tale

    4.5 stars- Tom Sawyer

    4 stars- Iliad

    5 stars- The Odyssey

    Will stop at that for now- that is most books I read, but some are still missing

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So many cool books! I agree with you about Anna Karenina…I didn’t like it, even if I will admit the writing was beautiful. Though I did enjoy the subplot about the romance between Kitty and Levin.

      Like

          1. I had both War and Peace and Anna Karenina- I pulled both off the shelf.

            Bleak House, Tom Sawyer, Little Women, Secret Garden, and Mayor of Casterbrdige, Some Hans Christian Anderson, and A Christmas Treasury were the ones I loved the this year when it comes to the classics

            Liked by 1 person

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