Bookish Ramblings – Favorite Reads for 2020…so far!
This year has been a difficult year for many people for a variety of reasons. Illness and deaths from COVID-19. Loss of jobs. Loss of businesses. Seemingly endless quarantine. No vacation time. Forced to work from home. Children forced to stay at home and learn virtually even when that isn’t optimal for their learning experiences. Teachers forced to adapt their teaching methods to a virtual environment with little, if any, notification and doing it wonderfully. Murder Hornets. Massive wildfires. Incredible hurricanes and flooding. And we won’t even discuss the racial and political tensions running rampant across the world. I’ve heard from a lot of my bookish friends and acquaintances that they haven’t been able to focus on reading at all this year. Yes, 2020 has been stressful in a variety of ways. Some of us have resorted to comfort eating, watching hours of movies on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and other online venues, and reading. I consider myself incredibly fortunate and blessed that I’ve been able to focus on reading despite, or rather in spite of everything going on around me. Reading has always been my escape, but this year has been a year of re-reading along with some great new reads.
Most of you know that I have incredibly eclectic reading tastes, but gravitate towards mysteries, thrillers, romantic suspense, romance, and science-fiction with the odd YA, and nonfiction read thrown into the mix. However, this year I’ve resorted to tons of re-reading (and yes, I do a lot of re-reading annually, but not to the extent that I’ve done this year). My re-reads this year have primarily been romance and romantic suspense mixed with some nonfiction. I know, who’d think that I’d resort to nonfiction reads for comfort reads, but there you go. However, if I listed my favorite re-reads for the year, we’d be here for quite some time so I’ll just be listing a few of my favorite newly published reads from 2020. Some of these books I’ve reviewed, others I’ve just read (and re-read). I’ve recommended them in my reviews and on social media even when I didn’t review them. All of these were my fiction reads, one was a graphic novel, one was a YA read, one was romance, one was romantic suspense, others ran the gamut from suspense thrillers to literary fiction.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.
The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
The Olander family embodies the modern American Dream in a globalized world. Jaya, the cultured daughter of an Indian diplomat, and Keith, an ambitious banker from middle-class Philadelphia, meet in a London pub in 1988 and make a life together in suburban California. Their strong marriage is built on shared beliefs and love for their two children: headstrong teenager Karina and young son Prem, the light of their home.
But love and prosperity cannot protect them from sudden, unspeakable tragedy, and the family’s foundation cracks as each member struggles to seek a way forward. Jaya finds solace in spirituality. Keith wagers on his high-powered career. Karina focuses relentlessly on her future and independence. And Prem watches helplessly as his once close-knit family drifts apart.
When Karina heads off to college for a fresh start, her search for identity and belonging leads her down a dark path, forcing her and her family to reckon with the past, the secrets they’ve held and the weight of their choices.
The Shape of Family is an intimate portrayal of four individuals as they grapple with what it means to be a family and how to move from a painful past into a hopeful future. It is a profoundly moving exploration of the ways we all seek belonging—in our families, our communities and ultimately, within ourselves.
That Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story by Huda Fahmy
Chaperones, suitors, and arranged marriages aren’t only reserved for the heroines of a Jane Austen novel. They’re just another walk in the park for this leading lady, who is on a mission to find her leading lad. From the brilliant comics Yes, I’m Hot in This, Huda Fahmy tells the hilarious story of how she met and married her husband. Navigating mismatched suitors, gossiping aunties, and societal expectations for Muslim women, That Can Be Arranged deftly and hilariously reveals to readers what it can be like to find a husband as an observant Muslim woman in the twenty-first century.
So relevant in today’s evolving cultural climate, Fahmy’s story offers a perceptive and personal glimpse into the sometimes sticky but ultimately rewarding balance of independent choice and tradition.
Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed
It’s August in Paris and 17-year-old Khayyam Maquet—American, French, Indian, Muslim—is at a crossroads. This holiday with her professor parents should be a dream trip for the budding art historian. But her maybe-ex-boyfriend is probably ghosting her, she might have just blown her chance at getting into her dream college, and now all she really wants is to be back home in Chicago figuring out her messy life instead of brooding in the City of Light.
Two hundred years before Khayyam’s summer of discontent, Leila is struggling to survive and keep her true love hidden from the Pasha who has “gifted” her with favored status in his harem. In the present day—and with the company of a descendant of Alexandre Dumas—Khayyam begins to connect allusions to an enigmatic 19th-century Muslim woman whose path may have intersected with Alexandre Dumas, Eugène Delacroix, and Lord Byron.
Echoing across centuries, Leila and Khayyam’s lives intertwine, and as one woman’s long-forgotten life is uncovered, another’s is transformed.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.
As with her New York Times-bestselling debut The Mothers, Brit Bennett offers an engrossing page-turner about family and relationships that is immersive and provocative, compassionate, and wise.
Party of Two (The Wedding Date #5) by Jasmine Guillory
Dating is the last thing on Olivia Monroe’s mind when she moves to LA to start her own law firm. But when she meets a gorgeous man at a hotel bar and they spend the entire night flirting, she discovers too late that he is none other than hotshot junior senator Max Powell. Olivia has zero interest in dating a politician, but when a cake arrives at her office with the cutest message, she can’t resist–it is chocolate cake, after all.
Olivia is surprised to find that Max is sweet, funny, and noble–not just some privileged white politician she assumed him to be. Because of Max’s high-profile job, they start seeing each other secretly, which leads to clandestine dates and silly disguises. But when they finally go public, the intense media scrutiny means people are now digging up her rocky past and criticizing her job, even her suitability as a trophy girlfriend. Olivia knows what she has with Max is something special, but is it strong enough to survive the heat of the spotlight?
Blind Faith (Jigsaw Files #3) by Sharon Sala
He has nothing and everything to lose…
When a seventeen-year-old boy goes missing while camping with his buddies in the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend, the case is right up PI Charlie Dodge’s alley. Charlie’s reputation for finding missing people—especially missing kids—is unparalleled. Unfortunately, trouble seems to be equally good at finding him.
Charlie’s still in the thick of it when bad news arrives regarding his wife, Annie, whose early-onset Alzheimer’s is causing her to slip further and further away. The timing couldn’t be worse. Thankfully, Charlie’s ride-or-die assistant, Wyrick, has his back. But when Universal Theorem, the shadowy and elusive organization from Wyrick’s past, escalates its deadly threats against her, it pushes both partners past their breaking points. Finding people is one thing; now Charlie will have to fight to hold on to everyone he holds dear.
Strong from the Heart (Caitlin Strong #11) by Jon Land
In what Brad Meltzer calls a “savory Tex-Mex tale, seasoned with all the ingredients of a great thriller,” Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong digs for the truth behind the Opioid Crisis in the next installment of Jon Land’s critically acclaimed series
Mexico, 1898: Texas Ranger William Ray Strong arrives in the border town of Camino Pass to transport a young Pancho Villa to stand trial, but his plans are waylaid when he learns all of the town’s children have been kidnapped.
The Present: The drug crisis hits home for fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong when the son of her outlaw lover, Cort Wesley Masters, nearly dies from an opioid overdose.
Determined to make those responsible pay, Caitlin sets out to track down the dealer and pusher, while trying to solve the inexplicable tragedy of a small Texas town where all the residents died in a single night. When she realizes these two pursuits are connected, she finds herself following a trail to the truth of the crisis nestled hard in the center of America’s power base.
That power base, comprised of politicians, Big Pharma, along with corrupt doctors and drug distributors, has successfully beaten back all threats in the past. But they have no idea what’s in store when the guns of Texas come calling.
When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole
The gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood takes on a sinister new meaning…
Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.
But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.
When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?
And Now She’s Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall
Isabel Lincoln is gone.
But is she missing?
It’s up to Grayson Sykes to find her. Although she is reluctant to track down a woman who may not want to be found, Gray’s search for Isabel Lincoln becomes more complicated and dangerous with every new revelation about the woman’s secrets and the truth she’s hidden from her friends and family.
Featuring two complicated women in a dangerous cat and mouse game, And Now She’s Gone explores the nature of secrets — and how violence and fear can lead you to abandon everything in order to survive.
If you haven’t read any of these books or simply haven’t been able to focus on reading, I hope that one or more of these titles may pique your reading interest. I don’t know what the remaining months of 2020 may have in store for any of us, but I’m hopeful that there will be plenty of good books coming out, providing hours of reading escape, no matter what may be ahead.
Happy Reading, y’all!
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