Top 5 Favorite Books of 2020

Earlier this week, I talked about my Top 5 Biggest Book Disappointments of 2020. I specifically decided to call out BOOK disappointments, because otherwise the entire year would’ve been featured on that list!

Just me trying to make it through 2020 in one piece…

I really shouldn’t complain. While this was a total dumpster fire of a year, I did get a chance to read a ton of great books! When the pandemic first began, I really struggled to settle into a new routine and adjust to this “new normal.” My reading definitely took a nose-dive because I just couldn’t focus on my books with everything happening in the world. Thankfully, by the Summer months I got myself back on track! Deciding which books to feature here really was a challenge! I’m going to keep the summaries short but I’ve included a blurb about what my this book so great (in my opinion). After that long intro, it’s time to talk great books!! (My list will be in my reading chronological order through the year, starting January to December).

Kicking off this list is Oona Out Of Order by Margarita Montimore! What an absolute joy and refreshing deviation from my standard genres! This was a story about a woman who, starting on her 19th birthday, begins living her life out of order. Each birthday she time hops to a different age, 19 – 54 – 37 – 78. What really made this a memorable reading experience were the life lessons and fantastic quotes sprinkled throughout this novel. Each year Oona lives teaches her something which I found to be interesting and applicable to my life. Montimore also had some truly noteworthy quotes, my favorite being: All good things end, always. The trick is to enjoy them while they last. As I look into 2021, this is something that’s going to stick with me. Savor these enjoyable moments because you never know how long that are going to last.

Next up we have House In The Cerulean Sea by T. J. Klune. A good friend of mine recommended this book to me and I am so glad she did! Cerulean Sea is the story of a social work name Linus, who handles orphanages for “special children.” One day Linus gets a high-priority assignment and is asked to travel to a very… unique… orphanage. There he meets an eclectic group of people that turn his entire life upside down. Each of the children has a very distinct personality that adds so much charm and dimension to the story. To put it simply, this book is perfection. While this was a work of fiction, Klune does an incredible job weaving in relevant parallels to what’s happening in today’s world (like prejudice and discrimination). If you’re looking for a feel-good story, look no further than The House In The Cerulean Sea!

Starting last year, I decided I wanted to read all of the Shadowhunter Chronicles by Cassandra Clare. I started off strong, reading The Mortal Instruments trilogy (Part 1, Books 1 – 3), The Infernal Devices trilogy and started The Mortal Instruments Part 2 (Book #4, City of Fallen Angels). This year, I finished off the last 2 books in part 2 of The Mortal Instruments, the supplemental short story bind ups and moved onto The Dark Artifices. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare was my favorite entry in this world to date. The writing was engaging and the plot centered around a mystery. It was a wild ride from the first page to the very last! What really cemented this book’s spot on my Top 5 list was the fact that it was nearly 700 and it didn’t feel nearly that long. The story was meaningful and there wasn’t fluff or filler. I’m currently reading Lord of Shadows and I’m anxious to see where the story goes from here!

My next book, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab, was a bit of a toss up. I was conflicted including this because it has already received SO much praise this year already. If you haven’t heard of this book (first of all, where have you been?), it’s the story of Adeline LaRue who makes a deal with a Dark God to change her fate and have the life she always dreamed of. The catch? As soon as Addie leaves your vision, you forget her… until she finally meets someone who remembers. Similar to Oona Out Of Order, Addie LaRue is not my typical genre of book but I thoroughly enjoyed it. This was an epic story, that needed to be told, and Schwab crafted it would masterful precision. I was nervous about how this was all going to wrap up but the ending was utter perfection. It was a great culmination to a fantastic tale

Finally, rounding out this list is, Anxious People by Fredrik Bachman. This was one of the last books I read this year and I ENJOYED IT. I’ve read several of Bachman’s other works (A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry). Both of these novels were wonderful and definitely tugged a bit at the heartstrings. I went into Anxious People expecting a lighthearted and funny story about a bank robbery gone wrong. This wasn’t quite what I got. The novel had a much more serious and somber tone since suicide plays a large role in the plot. There was a large cast of characters but Bachman did a great job giving each one a distinct voice so you never mixed them up. While suicide is at the center of the book, the story manages to be uplifting and center on healing. Give this one a whirl if you need a little optimism in your life.

I would like to cheat and add one final “Honorable Mention” which is Atomic Habits by Jame Clear. It’s really hard to put this book up against some of the incredible fiction I’ve previously mentioned but I had to still mention this book. I absolutely loved it and thought the advice was so applicable. Clear does a great job making the advice relatable and useful (as opposed to most of the other self-help / development books I’ve read). He’s easy to connect to and doesn’t come across as condescending. A MUST read if you’re looking to build new, or break existing, habits!

And there you have it! My Top 5 Favorite Books of 2020. While this year wasn’t quite exactly what I was hoping it would be, I learned a little and ended up reading a lot. I’m hopeful that 2021 will be the year we’ve all earned and deserve!

Have you read any of my favorites? What did you think? Any recommendations on “Must Read” books for 2021? Leave your favorites in the comments – let’s face it, my TBR is never going to shrink!

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

Tome Topple: Round 13 / November Recap

As I said in a previous tweet, October was FAST and November turned out to be even FASTER! How is that even possible!? I had an… interesting reading month filled with amazing books and very mediocre books. In total, I read 7 books this month and I’m still on track to hit my goal of 52 for the year! Not only did I get a lot of reading in, I also had the pleasure of co-hosting one of my favorite read-a-thons, Tome Topple (more on that later)!

As I previous mentioned, I read The Witches by Roald Dahl and The List by JA Konrath. Neither of these books were that amazing. The Witches was a rather morbid story but The List was quirky and entertaining. I really enjoy Konrath’s unique writing style. The plots are always inventive and I can’t help by get sucked into his stories!

After The List, I moved onto the masterpiece that is The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab. This book was FANTASTIC and it was just what the doctor ordered! While this wasn’t my typical read, I relished in the world and story that Schwab created. The premise was awesome – to escape her destiny, Addie makes a deal with a “Dark God” to free herself. This deal comes at a cost, no one can remember Addie after they’ve left her presence. Addie lives for over 300 years, roaming the earth, stealing what she needs until one day she meets Henry… and Henry can remember her. For me personally, this book really took shape about halfway through when Addie meets Henry and the “adventure” really begins. The story flowed in such an amazing and poetic way. If you haven’t picked this one up yet, move it to the top of your TBR ASAP.

Rounding out the month, I read a couple self-help books. The Person You Mean To Be By Dolly Chugh and Atomic Habits by James Clear. Dolly Chugh was a featured speaker at a recent work event. I was able to hear her talk and was blown away by how personable and relatable she is. I decided to pick up her book, The Person You Mean To Be, on audiobook because she narrated it. I don’t want to “review” this book because the subject matter isn’t meant to be entertaining – it’s meant to be informative and challenge / stretch your views. Did I agree with all of the ideas presented in this book? Absolutely not. Did these views challenge my to think in different ways and looks at certain topics from a different angle? You bet. This is one of the only books on GoodReads I didn’t give a star rating to because I’d encourage everyone to pick this up and give it a try. After I finished Dolly’s book I moved onto Atomic Habits. Atomic Habits was HANDS DOWN one of the best self-help / development books I have ever read. Clear gives you real, actionable advices for helping you to start new habits or break bad ones. I think what I appreciated the most about his take on habits was very rarely did he make the book about him (i.e. I did this or I struggled to do this) and instead talked to principles and actuality. He was also extremely easy to relate to! I found myself taking notes on ways to implement these strategies in my everyday life (and New Year Resolutions are coming)! If you’re looking for ways to build better habits, give this book a try. I can confidently say you’ll find it extremely useful!

The last couple books I read this month were Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo and The Toll by Neal Schusterman. Clap When You Land was an interesting book and, again, not something that I typically pick up. The story is about two sisters, who don’t know they are sisters, until their father dies in a tragic plane crash. The story is told from each of the girls’ perspectives. Acevedo did an incredible job giving each of these characters a unique voice. There was small nuances and cultural influences that really shown through into each of the characters. My last book I finished was The Toll and that was ONE HECK OF A FINALE. I started the Arc of a Scythe trilogy on New Year’s Day of and made my way through all 3 books over the course of the year. Scythe and Thunderhead (books 1 and 2, respectively) were absolutely incredible. I heard iffy things about The Toll, so I subliminally pushed it off. While it was a little on the long side (there was definitely some fluff that couldn’t been cut out) I found the story to be interesting and engaging. There were some interesting twists sprinkled throughout and I found the ending to be pretty spot on. It wasn’t too perfect or cookie cutter and had just enough grit and uniqueness!

Tome Topple Wrap Up

I was incredibly lucky to help co-host Tome Topple Round 13. I had a blast leading reading sprints and talking books with all of the other readers participating in the read-a-thon. I have to hand it to Sam (from @ThoughtsOnTomes) and the rest of the co-hosts, they do an incredible job running things. I’ve participated in this read-a-thon several times before and never realized how much work goes into creating it! I work in eCommerce for a retailer, so the week of Thanksgiving was a little crazy for me. I ended up finishing my only tome (The Toll) on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Another round is scheduled for February-ish, so I am hoping to topple a few books during that round since life should be a lot calmer then!

We’re well into December, so I’ll be posting a TBR soon and then my year in review wrap up! Hope everyone is staying safe and I’ll back with another post this week!

Until we meet again,
Mr Geek

Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-A-Thon Mini-Challenge: Hour 13!

It’s Mr Geek coming at you with a mini challenge for the 13th hour of Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-A-Thon! How is your reading day going so far? Making good progress? Personally, I’m working to wrap up Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia today and potentially start City of Ghosts by V.E. Schwab. This month is all about the horror / spooky / creepy reads! If that sounds right up your alley, check out me October TBR. Ok, enough chit-chat, let’s down to business!

For this challenge, I thought it would be fun to track all of the “Fall / Autumn” references within your current book! This can be anything from pumpkin patches or chilly weather to apple cider or crisp autumn leaves!

At the end of the hour, be sure to stop back, or you can always Tweet me (@ItsMrGeekToYou), and let me know how many reference you found! The winner gets bragging rights from now until the next read-a-thon! Good luck to all my fellow readers and have fun!

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

Book Review: Don’t Look For Me by Wendy Walker

I have always been a fan of the thriller / suspense genre. I love starting a new mystery novel and immediately becoming immersed in the plot! Last year, while browsing around Amazon, I came across a recently released book (The Night Before) by an author I had never heard of (Wendy Walker). As soon as I read the synopsis I knew I had to add it to my TBR! Here’s my quick take for those who haven’t read or heard of this book: Lauren Lochner has never had much success in the romance department. After her latest failed relationship, she decides to give up her Wall Street job, and New York City lifestyle, to move in with her sister, Rosie, back in Connecticut where they grew up. Lauren struggles to find her new normal and decides to give dating another try. This seems like the perfect reset for Lauren…. until she doesn’t return home from her date the next morning. As panic begins to build, and Rosie desperately tries to locate her sister, she realizes she’s not worried that something happen to Lauren, but what Lauren might have done to her date. This book was fantastic, inventive and I could not put it down! If you’re interested in picking up a copy or learning more, view The Night Before on Amazon.

Shortly after I read The Night Before, St Martin’s Press reached out to me offering an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Walker’s newest book, Don’t Look For Me. As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew this book would be right up my alley and jumped on the offer! Don’t Look For Me was a brilliant, nerve-wracking, thrill-ride from the first page to the last.

Here’s my quick, spoiler-free summary: Have you ever wanted to just pick-up, leave your life behind and start over somewhere new? Well that’s exactly what Molly Clarke wanted. After the death of one of her children, Molly’s life is shattered and her family is broken. She’s desperate to disappear and never be found, it’s the only way she can deal with her grief and hopefully help her family heal. So it doesn’t come as a surprise when Molly goes missing one night during a terrible storm. Days later a note is found at a local casino, along with some of her clothing, saying that she is moving over and “don’t look for me.” Is this Molly’s chance to start over or is there more to this story than meets the eye?

Review: I freaking loved this book. To start, I love when a book is written with multiple POVs or alternating timelines. “Don’t Look For Me” alternates between present day and the night Molly disappears. Walker did such a great job here. Each timeline was interesting, compelling and I was never bored with the story. I looked forward to each “switch” because I knew I was getting more details to help my unravel what happened the night Molly went missing. I found the characters to be fascinating and I liked the subtle theme of redemption that was threaded throughout the novel. The further you get into this book, the deeper and more intriguing the mystery becomes. As I hit the last ~100 pages, I felt like I was on a runaway train and sat glued to the couch until I read the final page. Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable and well-written thriller. If you haven’t read a Wendy Walker book, do yourself a favor and pick up either: The Night Before or Don’t Look For Me (Release Date: September 15, 2020). If you do purchase a copy, please consider using the affiliate links in this blog post – I’ll receive a small commission and there’s no charge to you!

A HUGE thank you to St Martin’s Press for providing this advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review.

Are you a fan of thrillers? What are some of your favorites? Have you also read one of Wendy’s books? What did you think? Leave me a comment or tweet me (@ItsMrGeekToYou)!

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

PS – Are we friends on GoodReads? Add me: ItsMrGeekToYou

Tome Topple Round 12: Wrap Up

Well friends, another round of Tome Topple is in the books! I had, what I’m considering, a very successful round. I was about to read over 1,000 pages in this 2-week duration. Unfortunately, I had a pretty busy week 2 and also took a long weekend trip out of town (which really cut into my reading time but provided some MUCH NEEDED R&R).

The first book I tackled was quite the chunker: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. This clocked in at around 700 pages and was a freaking phenomenal book. Lady Midnight is the first entry in the Dark Artifices series. I honestly can’t say enough good things about this book! From the first page to the last I was completely hooked. Even though this was a longer book, the pages flew by. Not once did I find myself bored or flipping ahead to see how much was left. I felt the connected to the characters and the plot really sucked me in! Hands down a 5 out of 5 stars read! If you haven’t read the Shadowhunter Chronicles, but are interested in starting, stay tuned – I’m working on a post outlining how to enter this world!

The next book I started, but didn’t quite finish was Muse of Nightmares by Liani Taylor. Holy. Shit. I have been sleeping on this book for a good year and am so angry at myself for not reading it sooner! I’m finally getting around to writing this post about a week after Tome Topple has ended and I just finished Muse today. This booked completely lived up to my expectations (and I’ll be writing a fully review soon, so check back for that). Taylor’s writing is so poetic and lyrical – it’s really a joy to read. I found the plot to be completely engrossing and I absolutely loved revisiting some of previous characters from Strange the Dreamer, in addition to meeting some new ones! Everything about this book was perfect and I can’t wait to rave about it more in my review post!

It looks like we’ll be squeezing in one more Tome Topple this year (I think in November). There were many more read-a-thons this year than normal due to the pandemic. I feel like I’m finally getting myself back to a good spot in my reading and am able to enjoy my books again. I’ve also been on a great streak here of reading excellent books! Did you participate in Tome Topple? If so, what did you read? Any reading suggestions for me for the next round? Leave me a comment or tweet me @ItsMrGeekToYou.

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

Tome Topple Round 12: Check In

It’s hard to believe that we’re already at about halfway point for Tome Topple Round 12! This might just be a mental thing, but I feel like I’m making much more progress this round than I have in Rounds 10 & 11. By the time this post goes live (writing it a little early and scheduling when it will be published), I should be done with Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. I have so thoroughly enjoyed this book and I honestly can’t say enough good things about it! The characters, the plot, the mystery… it’s so engrossing! For being nearly 700 pages, the story hasn’t dragged and the pacing has been absolutely perfect. Even when there isn’t “action” per se, there is still an air of mystery that propels you through the story. This is a bit of a premature statement, since I still have to read Lord of Shadows and Queen of Air and Darkness, but I think the Dark Artifices has the potential to be my favorite Shadowhunter trilogy to date. I have a feeling the Last Hours will also be in the running, when I make it to that series!

I setup a pretty nice, well-rounded TBR when I was prepping for Tome Topple but now I’m in a bit of a conundrum. I don’t know what to read next! My choices are:

  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • Muse of Nightmares by Liani Taylor
  • Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (for a “parody” post on my blog)
  • The Toll by Neal Shusterman

This is where I’m asking for your help, WordPress, Twitter and Tome Topple communities! I’ll most likely be starting this book later today or tomorrow and I’d like a fast-paced, can’t-out-down book since I want to finish it before the end of the week (and I might even start something else if I finish this in time)! Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts? What I should I read next? Leave a comment, tweet me or send an owl to help me figure this out! I appreciate your support!

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

Book Review: Everyone Knows How Much I Love You by Kyle McCarthy

“Everyone Knows How Much I Love You” by Kyle McCarthy is a tricky book for me to review. I am a huge fan of the suspense / thriller genre and never get board with reading something that gets my heart pounding. Unfortunately, “Everyone Knows How Much I Love You” went a little off the rails in the middle and wasn’t really able to recover.

The premise of this book had me hooked as soon as I read the synopsis. When Rose, a struggling author, moves to New York City, the last person she expects to run into is her former best friend from High School, Lacie. After a chain of events, these two women find their lives beginning to intersect and they soon settle back into their old friendship. As Rose is trying to find a place to live, on a minimal budget, Lacie offers up the spare bedroom in her apartment. We learn that Rose is on the cusp of finishing her book which, unbeknownst to Lacie, is about her. Soon Rose has infiltrated Lacie’s life – she begins wearing her clothings, meeting her friends and even connects with her boyfriend (a former friend from Art Camp). As the plot unfolds, we learn more about what happened in High School that drove the two friends apart. It was at this point that the book began to lose me. Without giving away too many spoiled, Rose begins an affair and the plot really went off the rails. The narrative became so disgustingly raunchy and graphic that I almost stopped reading. I think this would’ve been slightly easier to understand if I felt like it advanced the plot in some capacity – but it did not. I’m far from a prude but this writing was disgusting and completely unnecessary. As the book began to wind down, I was curious how this was all going to end (Spoiler: Not well for anyone involved). The ending felt rushed and, while it was surprising, wasn’t particularly good. I definitely was scratching my head for a few minutes after I finished the last page.

Overall, not a horrible read but definitely not a favorite for the year. Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Random House – I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. If you’re interested in pick up a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link (it doesn’t cost you anything and I’ll get a small commission to help keep my blog going)!

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek