Favorite Reads of 2020

Oh, 2020. What. A. Year. It’s been really exciting in a lot of ways (I got married, I wrote a whole book and revised another, I saw the launch of Rural Voices), but also, you know, a global pandemic happened. Kind of a suckfest. We are luckier than most, and I’m glad for that, but there were times when I really wasn’t feeling like myself and my reading definitely suffered. I also took on more tasks and responsibilities over at Book Riot, including joining the All the Books! team on a monthly rotation, which meant I read way more brand-new releases that come out on the third Tuesday of the month than I ever have before. And…I also DNF’d a lot of books. I thought my stats would shake out to be a bit disappointing, so I was a bit shocked when I realized I’m on track to have finished 110 books this year, the same number that I accomplished last year!

I know that surviving this year intact is an accomplishment in and of itself, and I shouldn’t try to compare myself to years previous, but I am such a stats nerd! I use a Sheet-based log (you can get the reading log, which I built and shared on Book Riot), and it keeps track of lots of stats! It’s not quite the end of the year yet and I hope to squeeze in at least five more books, but here are some cool numbers from my year in reading!

I read a ton in audio–the most audiobooks I’ve read in any year since I started tracking that in 2018! I still prefer print, but because of my work reading, which is mostly of ARCs, I have to read a lot digitally and on audio. I sometimes daydream of running away to a cute little AirBnb or cabin in the woods with nothing but a box of books to get through my spectacular print backlog.

Fun fact, I used to be afraid of nonfiction! I thought it was boring! I’ve been reading way more nonfiction (this is up from 13% in 2019, and 9% in 2018!) and this year I read a lot of great true crime, some amazing memoirs, and even some science books, which surprised even me!

My genre break down is really interesting to me–general fiction has always been my biggest pie slice, followed by mystery/crime, so no surprises there. I read a little less sci-fi and fantasy this year–I don’t know what it is, but I found myself being really picky about about my world building, although some of my faves are sci-fi/fantasy! The biggest increase is in romance (6% last year, and 3% the year before) because I found some really delightful and lovely romance novels I L-O-V-E. And then my biggest surprise of 2020 is that apparently I like horror novels??!?!?! WHO KNEW!

I always strive to read diversely and outside of my comfort zone, because I think it helps me be a better writer and person. Tracking my reading helps me stay focused on those goals, and I’m excited to see what 2021 looks like! It also helps give me perspective, because despite feeling mehhhh about my reading life in general this year, I read a lot of great books that I’m excited to shout about! As always, keep in mind these are faves I read in 2020, not necessarily “best of” the year. They’re a mix of 2020 releases and backlist books I read for the first time, and they aren’t the only ones I loved, just the top 20 that stood out! Also, the links take you to Bookshop.org because they support Indies, but I highly recommend checking out your local indie store’s website if you want to buy them! Here we go!

The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Okay, but this book might actually be my most favorite book of the year? It’s queer and it’s full of so! many! twists! and it has a fascinating world, plus multiverse travel. I loved everything about it, from the characters to the voice to the multi-world stakes. It’s a standalone, but this debut novel has made Micaiah Johnson an auto-buy author for me!

Late to the Party by Kelly Quindlen

This is one of my favorite LGBTQ+ YA reads of the year because it’s about friendships and identity beyond the coming out narrative! Codi is a teen with two amazing best friends, but she accidentally falls into a new friend group that she loves…and she doesn’t tell her friends about it. I love a good friendship story, and I love how casually queer and accepting everyone in this book was!

The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune

I know this is one seriously hyped fantasy and I wasn’t sure if it could possibly live up to everyone’s love for it and it did! Like, I felt all the feelings and laughed and maybe almost cried five times. It’s the most wholesome and hilarious fantasy novel, and it doesn’t feel like anything else I’ve read!

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

Look, if you tell me about a lesbian romance set in Regency times, I’m going to have to read it. Not only is this just a good romance (queer or straight), it’s also a really great Regency-era novel that explores women who are active in both science and art, and the struggles they faced to be acknowledged. And the romance–swoon. Spoiler alert, the second book in this series is also a delight.

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

Okay, look if you tell me about any lesbian romance novels…I’m going to read them. This one is notable because it’s the first f/f romance put out by Berkley, a big romance publisher, and like, wow, yay, and more, please! I don’t normally love Hollywood-set romances but this one worked for me on so many levels. Fair warning it is a slooooow burn, but totally worth it!

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

I read Melissa Bashardoust’s Girls Made of Snow and Glass last year, and it’s one of the best Snow White retellings I’ve ever read. In this book she takes on a Persian myth, and as a standalone fantasy, it’s absolutely excellent. The writing is beautiful, the plot unfolds wonderfully, and I loved the (queer!) romance. Bashardoust is an auto-buy author for me!

Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Crosby

I had the privilege of appearing in Rural Voices alongside Crosby, and I loved his story so much I immediately checked out this book from the library and I LOVED IT. It’s a very gritty, action-packed thriller and let’s just say that I had no idea that a car chase scene could be as riveting on the page as it could be on a screen! Crosby is so talented!

The Twisted Ones by T Kingfisher

This is my spouse’s favorite book of the year, so naturally I wanted to read it so we could talk about it. It’s a really great, funny/spooky about a young woman and her dog, and the dog DOES NOT DIE, which is important. I immediately downloaded Kingfisher’s newest 2020 release, which I’ve not read yet but definitely plan to!

Beach Read by Emily Henry

There is so much I love about this book–dueling writers! Small towns! Lake Michigan beaches! Romance! Family complications! For real, this is one of the most delightful books I read all year, and it came to me during a truly meh month and I am forever grateful for that.

Six Angry Girls by Adrienne Kisner

This book is very excellent and very hilarious, and it will totally make you so angry because sexism! It’s not cool! But Adrienne Kisner is so cool because she’s created these amazing characters who decide they won’t put up with any bullshit, and they fight tooth and nail against the system and entitled boys, and they rock. Pick this up for amazing representation, two very funny voices, and a fight against injustice.

Goodbye From Nowhere by Sara Zarr

I’m a huge Zarr fan, but even so I was not prepared for this book to totally capture my attention and my heart. It’s about Kyle, a teen boy who is dealing with the fact that his family isn’t who he thought they were, and what that means for him and his relationship with them. It’s a book that’s admittedly light on plot but big on nuance and emotion, and I can’t stop recommending it.

Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisely

I love graphic novels that capture the “ughhhhh” feeling of being a kid, but also the joy. This book, loosely based on Lucy’s childhood when she was abruptly moved from the city to a farm with her mom and her new boyfriend, totally nails it! The art is so fun and playful, and I was with Jen all the way.

Vera Kelly Is Not a Mystery by Rosalie Knecht

Vera is back, and I’m so happy! This is a sequel to Who Is Vera Kelly?, which follows Vera, a twenty-something woman having very interesting adventures in and out of the CIA’s employ in the 1960’s. This book finds her setting up her own detective agency and maybe finding a good girlfriend? I just want all good things for Vera, even when she’s making questionable decisions. I’m fervently hoping for a third book!

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju

This is another delightful LGBTQ+ YA novel that explores the drag scene and can I say, I love that it gives equal spotlight to drag kings as well as queens! It’s also a painfully realistic novel about feeling awkward and saying the wrong things, and trying anyway, and I would like to hug all the characters and tell them it’s gonna be okay.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

I bought this book because I’m on a mission to own all of the gorgeous Sourcebooks Fire editions of Montgomery’s work, but I’d never actually read this book before! It’s an adult novel about Valancy Stirling and her misadventures when she stops letting her odious family control her and it was an utter delight, plus surprisingly relevant for a book written nearly 100 years ago!

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Are we surprised that Acevedo’s latest novel is on this list? I mean, she’s incredible. And this novel-in-verse about two half-sisters who discover each other’s existence when their dad dies in a tragic plane crash had me hooked from the very beginning. I will read anything Acevedo writes–or narrates!

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

Okay, just know that this is quite a heavy but incredibly beautiful memoir written by Chanel Miller, who might be better known as Emily Doe in the Brock Turner case. Miller is an incredible writer, and her memoir had me in tears multiple times. Read it, because this is an important story about healing, reclaiming one’s voice, and speaking the truth.

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Miller

I started thus book on audio one evening and didn’t look up until it was midnight and it was sadly done. This is a bizarre but endearing story of someone without a purpose finding her place with two very unexpected people. It’s hilarious and heartfelt, and I’ve not read anything else like it.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

This was probably my first really great read of 2020, and it’s really stuck with me all year long. It’s about the pitfalls of performative allyship, navigating those weird years between college and feeling like a “real” adult, and the messiness of class. It can be satirical, but it absolutely packs a punch.

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

I’ve been meaning to read this one for a while, because who doesn’t love the idea of time travelers going back in time to meet Jane Austen…and then grappling with whether or not to save her life from an illness that modern medicine could definitely treat? I liked the moral and philosophical questions this book raises, and how it handles questions of an author’s legacy and what parts of them readers are entitled to.

What are some of your favorite reads of 2020? I can’t wait to hear about them!

Preorder RURAL VOICES now!

rural-voices-15-authors-challenge-assumptions-about-small-town-americaIn all the chaos and anxiety of recent months, it hardly seems possible that we are under six months out from the release of Rural Voices: 15 Authors Challenge Assumptions about Small-Town America, edited by my friend Nora Shalaway Carpenter! I’m extremely honored to have a short story in this anthology, and I talked about my contribution a bit more here. It was a lot of fun writing about a first date between two girls set against the backdrop of the county fair, which is one of the events of the year where I’m from!

Since this anthology is a collaboration of 15 different writers and illustrators spread far and wide, there’s no way to offer readers copies signed by all of us. However, I wanted to offer a little thank you to anyone kind enough to preorder! If you order a copy of Rural Voices before the release date of October 13th, I’ll send you a Michigan postcard with a personal note. I love sending mail and these postcards are so lovely, plus they showcase some of my favorite things about my home state–including Superman ice cream!

Michigan postcard

There are three ways to order and get a postcard!

  1. Order from my local indie, Books & Mortar in Grand Rapids, MI. You can get a copy by calling them or by placing an order on their website (yes, they ship!). I’ll sign any preorders, and slip a postcard in your book when it ships!
  2. Order from any retailer of your choice, and then fill out this simple Google form to let me know where to send your postcard! No proof of purchase necessary.
  3. Request that your local library order a copy of the book, then fill out the Google form to let me know where to send your postcard! No proof of request necessary! Most library systems let you easily request materials online, and trust me, librarians love ordering patron requests!

(Note: I won’t share your info with anyone, and it’ll be deleted once I send your postcard.)

That’s it! No matter where you order from or in what format, I’m happy to send you a postcard. And if you request the book at your library–thank you! Library requests are so important, and you rock!

Learn more about Rural Voices under Books!

Favorite Reads of 2019

Well, I held out as long as I possibly could before declaring my favorite books of 2019. I always feel like I should give all my year’s reading a fair shot at making the list and therefore not even think about favorites until December 31st, but does anyone even care about your favorite books of the year after January 1st? No, they’re all on to next year’s books! But I think it’s safe to say that between now and the next four days, I’ll mainly be finishing up books that I started and didn’t get quite through but definitely don’t want to abandon!

I’ve had a weird reading year. As usual, I keep track of everything I read using a spreadsheet that generates stats. If you too want to partake in the magic of tracking and reading stats, you can check out the reading log I built for Book Riot that took approximately 10 hours to make but will save you time and delight you with CHARTS. This year, I read 105 books, which is a lot of books, but that’s 40 fewer than last year. (And 40 is also a lot of books!) I read way more diversely, leaned into audiobooks, and I really got into nonfiction, but I also felt stretched thin. I read a ton for my Book Riot work, both for the Read Harder podcast and TBR service, which left me less time to marathon books purely for fun and re-read favorites. My podcast schedule left me feeling like I was constantly reading to satisfy a requirement, not for fun. I also had some pretty big writing deadlines this year and made the switch to full time freelancing in May, so the theme of 2019 seemed to be constantly re-centering myself and my reading life definitely took a hit.

Nonetheless, here are my 20 favorite books of 2019 in no particular order! It’s a good mix of backlist and 2019 releases, because backlist titles are awesome and it’s never too late to pick up a great book. I’m sure there are tons of 2019 titles that will end up on next year’s list because I am behind, story of my life.

fave books of 2019-2

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

My library teens convinced me to pick up this book and I am so glad I did! It’s a darkly humorous book about a near-ish future where death has been eradicated but Scythes still “glean” people at random to control population. Two teens get caught up in an epic struggle among Scythedom that asks a lot of big questions about morality, ethics, and the nature of life. It’s the only book we picked for teen book club that generated so much discussion I had to cut the teens off after our hour was up. Also, did I mention it’s funny?

The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan

Dervla McTiernan’s debut novel was on last year’s list and this follow up starring Cormac Reilly definitely did not disappoint. It’s got murder, conspiracy, rich people misbehaving, mistaken identity, and academic drama galore! I cannot wait for her next book!

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks

This graphic novel is my catnip. A fall-tastic story about two work friends who decide to make the most of their last night working at the Disneyland of pumpkin patches and discover a few things about their relationship! It’s funny, it’s colorful, it’s so happy. I am almost jealous that I didn’t write it.

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

This is a National Book Award finalist and totally suspenseful and inventive novel about a world where there are no monsters, until a creature named Pet emerges from a painting to tell our protagonist that they have to hunt one more monster hiding in pain sight. It’s a short, gripping novel that I listened to on audio in very nearly a single sitting.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

I’m a big Leigh Bardugo fan, so this is no surprise…and yet I was surprised at how much I loved this occult mystery set in New Haven, CT with old money, poor students, and very creepy happenings. It’s not YA, although I think Bardugo’s YA fans will really dig this book. My ONLY complaint is that this is very clearly the start of a series and we have no info on when the next book will be released. Plus, I once heard Leigh say at a panel that she was so excited to sign with an adult publisher who didn’t expect her to publish a book a year, and while I am very happy for her and her creative process, this is sad for us because I don’t think 2020 will bring us the sequel we want.

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby

I want Samantha Irby to be my IRL best friend! For real, this collection of essays is hysterically funny and honest, and I listened to her narrate the audiobook while driving from Michigan to DeKalb, IL, which is a real hazard when you consider how many semis there are around Chicago that I almost drove into because I was laughing so hard.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

At this stage, I think it’s safe to say that Elizabeth Acevedo’s books are must-reads for me. In fact, they’re must-listens as long as she’s narrating the audiobook–her performance of this novel was absolutely brilliant and I love that we got this story about a young woman taking chances and forging her own path without any wild, contrived plot drama. It was just an excellent coming of age story!

Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States by Samantha Allen

If you read one book off this list, please make it this one. Samantha Allen confronts so many stereotypes about small town and rural queers in this amazing book, which is part road trip diary, part memoir, and part investigative journalism. Queer people are living in small towns and making a difference and creating communities everywhere, not just the big cities.

My Real Children by Jo Walton

Full disclaimer, I started crying about 50 pages before the end of this novel and I did not stop. This isn’t a book that follows a traditional narrative. It starts in our world, with a young woman presented with a fateful decision in the days after WWII. The rest of the book alternates between her two lives depending on the choice she makes, but each of her lives diverges from our known reality in a small ways, then bigger ways. However, they are unified by a few commonalities. This book is queer, and weird, and so very moving. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry again, dang it!

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Hands down my favorite kids’ book of the year! It’s about a little girl whose family immigrates to the U.S., but the only job they can get is caretakers of a motel, which is owned by a very cranky and bad man who takes advantage of them financially and exploits their labor. However, our protagonist is bright and she’s plucky and she helps her parents wherever she can and soon they’re helping other immigrants who have been exploited. It’s also a very age-appropriate book about immigration and the challenges and unfair labor practices that immigrants face–and there’s a sequel out in 2020!

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

I inhaled this in almost a single sitting, staying up til 1 AM to finish. I’m such a big fan of Machado’s writing, and her memoir about domestic abuse was beautifully written, even though it was painful at times. I think she’s terrifically brave for putting her abuse to paper and then sharing it with the world so that we can start a conversation about queer intimate partner abuse–because queer relationships aren’t all perfect.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

This book is really weird and bonkers and I admit that I struggled to understand the plot for a good 100+ pages BUT I DID NOT CARE because I love Gideon so much and this sarcastic, hilarious, sometimes immature voice had me cracking up every other page. Seriously, just read the first paragraph.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Oh, I wanted to hug Freddie and tell her that if Laura Dean keeps breaking up with her, it’s time to break up with Laura Dean. Like with Machado’s book, I love that we are finally making space for all kinds of queer relationship stories, not just HEA. This is a great one for teens figuring out what love is and isn’t, and it’s beautifully illustrated.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

I know I am super late on this one, but 2019 was the year I finally gave in to Audible and bought the audiobook because I only wanted to experience this book with Noah narrating it to me and it was not the wrong decision! Full of hilarious anecdotes and sobering history lessons, this is an incredible memoir from a truly talented comedian and writer.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

I’m so glad that I discovered Sarah Gailey’s work this year because they have like 3 books coming out next year and they are all speculative and queer and very very very good. This is about a PI investigating a murder at a high school for teens with magic, which would be fine except the PI doesn’t have magic but her twin sister (and teacher at this school) totally does and there is HISTORY there. I loved how Gailey mashes the mystery and fantasy genres together here!

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

If you know me at all, you know I LOVE Jane Harper! I read her latest release on a flight from Philadelphia to Seattle, and yes, I read the ENTIRE novel on that flight, finishing just as we landed. The book is just that suspenseful and taut, and the setting–super remote, so far out in the middle of the nowhere you could die if you aren’t prepared Australia–was kinda creepy but gorgeously depicted!

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson

This is by far my favorite audiobook of the year, narrated by Bahni Turpin. It’s an incredible novel about international politics, which is something I know nothing about, told from the POV of a young Black woman who finds herself caught between two countries and two ideologies.

All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Let’s just say that if Moïra Fowley-Doyle puts out a new book, it’s gonna be on my faves list. This is a queer novel about family curses, sisters, and exposing the injustices of history in order to heal. Plus, it’s magical. Yes, please. More, please.

A Madness of Sunshine by Nailini Singh

Singh is a romance writer who has written an amazing first crime novel here. Keeping with the remote setting theme, this one is set on New Zealand’s west coast and is about a missing young woman whose plight stirs up unpleasant memories for the town while the community’s sole police officer (an outsider, naturally) tries to stay ahead of the game. It’s really riveting and perfect for Harper and French fans!

A Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

I’m just going to say it, I love YA fantasy but I’ve struggled to find new YA fantasy that I love. THIS ONE IS AMAZING. It has grimoires and dangerous libraries and kick ass librarians and grumpy sorcerers and hilarious banter and capricious demons and high stakes! Plus, it’s a standalone so no waiting for sequels! (Although I wouldn’t complain if Rogerson did write one…)

What are some of your favorite reads of 2019? Tell me about them!

Announcing RURAL VOICES: YA STORIES ABOUT GROWING UP IN REMOTE COMMUNITIES

Anyone who knows me knows that I am passionate about realistic, positive representation of small towns and rural communities in fiction, especially when it comes to portraying LGBTQ+ and characters of color. I’ve lived in a rural farming community my entire life, my hometown is considered a “city” at just under 10,000 people because we happen to host a small state university, and I grew up on a farm and participated in 4-H in middle and high school. While many stereotypes about rural communities and small town prejudices do have a grain of truth in them, I’ve found that my lived experiences don’t often match up to the ways in which small towns are often portrayed in YA books. Or worse, they’re not portrayed at all.

My awareness of this disconnect was only heightened when I attended Vermont College of Fine Arts for my MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. While that program is full of awesome, wonderful people and I highly recommend it if you’re serious about writing (for real–email me!), I also became familiar with how these stereotypes are continually reinforced. Like how if you live in a small town, you’re supposed to want to get out. That everyone is small-minded. That queer people can’t possibly find happiness in small communities. But! I also encountered some really amazing writers who were also from small, rural communities and fought against these prejudices alongside me. One such writer is my amazing critique partner, Monica M. Roe, who wrote her critical thesis on rural stereotypes, titled Reconsidering the Trailer Park: Confronting Stereotypes of Rural and Blue-Collar Culture in Young Adult Literature and the MFA Academy.

Another great writer I met through VCFA is Nora Shalaway Carpenter, the author of the picture book Yoga Frog, and the forthcoming YA novel The Edge of Anything. Last year, Nora (who is from West Virginia), had the great idea for a YA anthology about teens from rural areas. I sent her back an all-caps text that was essentially, “YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” After a lot of hard work on Nora’s part, and hard work from so many other writers and our respective agents, I am so excited to announce that I will be contributing a short story to RURAL VOICES: YA STORIES ABOUT GROWING UP IN REMOTE COMMUNITIES! The book will be published by Candlewick Press in Fall 2020!

Rural Voice announcement

When Nora first approached me with the idea and asked if I’d like to write a short story for this anthology, I knew I wanted to address two things: the experience of raising pigs in 4-H, and the experience of being an out, queer young woman in a small town. Raising pigs was a trip, and I’ve never failed to acknowledge that from the outside, a pig show looks somewhat bonkers. I loved raising pigs when I was younger, and it was so much fun to give that experience to my character. Writing about being out in a small town was harder for me, because it can be such a rollercoaster experience. There are clear disadvantages, and not-so-obvious advantages. I drew heavily on personal experience for both elements of this short story, and ended up with “Best in Show,” a f/f romance about county fairs, a pig named Herbert, and first dates! I hope you’ll like it!

And in conclusion, here is a photo of me at age 14, with my show pig. I don’t remember his name, and believe me, that makes me really sad. The Laura Ingalls Wilder braids were courtesy of a rumor that the judges liked it when the girls wore braids and ribbons, which is pretty sexist! I’ve a sudden urge to write a sequel YA short story about a feminist revolution set during the county fair…

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Favorite Reads of 2018

I love book lists, but I get so anxious around the end of the year because all of the “best of” lists are so subjective! I prefer to hear about everyone’s favorite books in any given year, especially when they include backlist recommendations. (Because books don’t cease to exist after their release year, and to prove that it’s never too late to pick up a great book!)

Despite the deep internal agony that it inflicts upon my soul, I was bitten by the end-of-the-year book list bug! Here are my favorite reads of 2018! I could only narrow it down to 20, and already I feel bad about (most) of the 125 I excluded, and the 5 I left out that I hope to read by the end of the year. And all the books I didn’t read this year. There are just so many books, okay!

fave books of 2018

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

I spend approximately 1/4 of my life in the library and I still got really nerdy excited about all of the behind-the-scenes library work, especially since LA’s library system is about 1,000 times larger than my library. Plus, this book melds true crime and beautiful odes to library work and books and history so well. I was enchanted. Listen to the audiobook! Susan Orlean narrates and it’s wonderful.

Dear Rachel Maddow by Adrienne Kisner

Adrienne has mastered the precise flavor of self-deprecating, cutting sarcasm that I adore in a character, especially in underdogs like Brynn. Brynn has taken a few hits–her girlfriend broke up with her, her brother died, and she lost her position on the school paper. But she’s unable to let injustice slide by in her school, so she decides to do something about it (reluctantly), all the while writing her hero Rachel Maddow.

The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan

I’ve been looking for another author to add to my roster of “people to read in between Tana French’s releases” and Dervla McTiernan’s debut ticked all my boxes! It’s a great mystery that centers the victims and survivors of the crime to the story, while also bringing in a detective that I just really like. I’m already tapping my fingers impatiently for her next book!

The Last Best Story by Maggie Lehrman

This is the funny, smart rom-com of my dreams, and it has the best banter I’ve read all year! I love, love, love Rosie and Graham’s dynamic in this His Girl Friday retelling, and I’m in awe of Maggie for writing a novel about a very serious topic (guns in schools) that doesn’t diminish the seriousness of the issue while still being a very funny story.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper

Jane Harper is my Australian Tana French. The Dry, her first novel, was one of my favorite books of 2017, and this one was just as good. I inhaled it in one afternoon, and I’m already antsy for her next release! Aaron Falk is a fascinating investigator, and I loves how she split half the book in his POV, and half in the POV of the group of women who go missing.

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Pride is definitely on my list of top five favorite Pride & Prejudice retellings. A lot of retellings tend to focus on the romance or crazy character dynamics, but I love that Ibi built her retelling on social commentary about changing neighborhoods and gentrification, which makes this book just so relevant and urgent. (And would make Jane happy, I think!) And the characters were brilliantly done, of course. Also–THAT COVER! 🔥

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

You know when you’re reading a book that’s so good that you can scarcely believe your lucky and your heart starts racing a little and your palms sweat, and you’re so thankful that you have at least a few hundred more pages but at the same time you want to call in sick so you can finish it right that second? Yeah, that was Tess for me. This is a beautiful, adventurous, moving fantasy. I loved it. I would hug it to my chest forever if I could.

Amelia Westlake Was Never Here by Erin Gough

Fun story, I was such a huge fan of Erin Gough’s first book, Get It Together, Delilah!, that I ordered this book from AUSTRALIA where it is already published and the website was sketchy and the shipping cost as much as the book, but reader, it was worth it! (A week after I finished the U.S. publication was announced, so you don’t have to go through what I went through…unless you can’t wait for May 2019, that is!)

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

This book has one of the best opening chapters I’ve ever read. I’m a huge Lily Anderson fan, but this book might be her best yet–a fat, unapologetic witch raises her recently-murdered best friend from the dead to find out who killed her…and gets more than she bargains for. It’s so funny and smart and if you’ve ever wanted to burn everything down, this book will satisfy your soul.

Florida by Lauren Groff

Believe it or not, this is my first Groff book! (Although I’ve been a huge fan since her takedown of men who don’t read women in NYT’s By the Book!) These stories are excellent–simmering with tension, passion, and unexpected danger. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Groff, and it was an experience I would actually repeat. I never re-listen to audiobooks, but this one would be worth it.

Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

I almost didn’t read this book, but I’m a sucker for a good family story, and this one turned out to be magnificent. I loved the tension between the three generations of mothers and daughters, and how we got to catch glimpses of each one through the years.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Look, it’s not every year that I predict the National Book Award winner, but I knew about halfway through this splendid audiobook (read by the author!) that it was going to win some awards. HAD to win awards. This is a most excellent, urgent, powerful story about finding your voice. Read it read it read it!!

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

I am a little in love with Maggie Hoskie, the badass heroine of this new series. Rebecca Roanhorse gives us the perfect example of a great emotional arc, and this book was just so much fun. Is it weird to think of post-apocalyptic Navajo nation plagued by demons as fun? Either way, I’m itching for the sequel!

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

I listened to this book early in the year, when I was making a sincere effort to get into audiobooks, because someone mentioned in passing that there were lesbians (I am predictable, okay?). You guys!!! Karen Memory is gay! Now, that’s not the only reason I liked this book (the voice is magnificent, the world is really fun, and it’s got a nice little murder mystery tucked into it), but I would’ve read it a lot sooner if someone had told me there were lesbians, so maybe you needed to hear that, too.

You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld

If I were to write adult fiction, I think I’d want to write like Curtis Sittenfeld. I loved Eligible (another one of my top 5 fave Pride & Prejudice retellings), and this collection of short stories just solidified my love. I read this book in an entire morning, and I was sad for the rest of the day that I’d finished so quickly.

Emergency Contact by Mark H.K. Choi

I picked this book up in the bookstore on a whim, and I knew by page two that it would be coming home with me. The dry humor, the crippling self-doubt, the desperation to make something of yourself–it was all too real! Plus, the friendship-turned romance was excellent.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Look, I’ll read anything that Maureen Johnson writes, but an Agatha Christie-esque YA murder mystery set in a boarding school in Vermont??? Did Christmas come early?? I loved the humor in this one, and the puzzles! I’ve already pre-ordered the sequel!

The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the best burger in Los Angeles) by Amy Spalding

This is the cutest book I read all year, and I mean that as a high compliment. I listened to the audio, which explains why I walked around with a dopey grin on my face for a week. Abby is just so funny and sweet and her crush on Jordi was relatable. I loved this fluffy romance.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Earlier this year I finally read Gabi and I hated myself for not reading it sooner! Gabi reminded me of my teenage obsession with the Georgia Nicolson Diaries–Gabi is similarly uncensored and confessional, but I found her struggles and the questions she asked in her journal to be much more emotionally hefty and thoughtful, though no less hilarious. Her Halloween alone made me crack up.

Sanity & Tallulah by Molly Brooks

I read a LOT of middle grade graphic novels for work, and this one leaps above the rest! It’s such a funny and adventurous friendship story with scary-fun stakes and a great sense of humor. I would read 10 more graphic novels about Sanity and Tallulah!