It’s time for one of my absolute favourite posts for the year—the annual End of Year Survey. This was created and hosted by Jamie for Perpetual Page Turner. Apart from the post header, the little divider images were all created by her.
This is an extremely long post, so grab some tea and a snack and let’s jump right into it.
**2020 READING STATS**
Number Of Books You Read: 243 (including rereads & DNFs)
Number of Re-Reads: 16
Genre You Read The Most From: Romance, in particular; historical romance
1. Best Book You Read In 2020?
I thought picking one book out of all the ones I read this year was going to be hard, and then I realised it was absolutely The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake. I’ve talked a bit about this one recently, so apologies if you’re sick of it, but this is such a beautiful book. It’s completely heartbreaking at times, funny in other moments and heartful as well. Sadly, it’s also completely underhyped—I haven’t seen anyone talk about it online, which is part of the reason why I’ve been pushing it so much. It’s a truly lovely story and it deserves to be read by more people. If you only add one book to your list from this post, make it this one.
You can also see a couple of my other favourites in the video I did as part of Vlogmas here.
2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?
I’ve been listening to people rave about Monkey Grip by Helen Garner for years and years. It’s been called an Australian classic, a must-read and so on and so forth. I actually hated it. All of the characters are extremely unlikeable but not in a way that actually kept me interested in them. I can deal with characters like that as long as there’s something interesting in them or their story, but this was just missing that. In fact, I had extremely bad luck with every Helen Garner book I read this year and I don’t foresee myself picking up anything else from her for a while. I do highly recommend reading or watching interviews or talks that she does because she is an incredible speaker.
3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?
I really had very little expectations for this one. I’d owned since 2011, I tried it a couple of times and never made it more than a few pages in and I figured I never would. Instead, I found this intensely beautiful book that I found haunted me whenever I put it down. This follows a young boy living in Wales and his brothers and father all work in the coal mines, and it’s about class structure and family and whatnot. The story isn’t really my cup of tea, but the writing was so gorgeous and lyrical that I just couldn’t put the book down. It was honestly such a nice surprise to find that something I’d had waiting on my shelves all those years was actually a really amazing read.
4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did)?
I always struggle with this question because most of my friends don’t read the same sorts of things that I do, other than Angel and we’re constantly pushing books on each other.
5. Best series you started in 2020? Best Sequel? Best Series Ender of 2020?
If you know me, then you probably know I’m really bad with series so this was difficult just because I didn’t really have that many that fit. But, best new series has to go to Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare, best sequel for The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn and Ottilie Colter and the Withering World by Rhiannon Williams for series ender.
6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2020?
There are probably five or six different authors that I could answer for this question, but I’m going to go with Angie Cruz. Out of everyone I discovered this year, she definitely stuck out in my mind as a new auto-buy author for me. I read two out of three of her books this year—Dominicana and Soledad, and they were both among some of my favourites. I’m hoping to pick up Let It Rain Coffee early this year, and then hopefully she’ll keep writing and releasing new books into the future that I can collect and devour like I have these ones.
7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read/was out of your comfort zone?
Be honest, how many of you guessed I would pick this one? This is Pestilence by Laura Thalassa, which is a sort of apocalyptic, urban fantasy romance in which the four horsemen of the apocalypse have descended on Earth and shit happens. It’s really not the sort of thing I ever reach for—I like to stick to my regency romances most of the time, but Angel made me read this one and I’m kind of obsessed with this series now. I’ve already read the second book, War, and I’ll be picking up the third one, Famine, soon and then eventually the fourth, Death, once it’s released hopefully later this year. There’s just something incredibly fun about this series—it’s so incredibly intense, but it works.
8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
I have to go with Death on the Nile for this one because who would I be if I didn’t mention Agatha Christie at least once? I’m not much of a thriller-y/action-packed reader, and I don’t know if you’d really consider this either of those things but it was definitely unputdownable. I just had to know who the murderer was and I stayed up a little too late because I couldn’t go to bed before I finished it off. I can see why this one is so popular because it really is Christie doing some of her best work. This is one of my favourite books of the year as well, so that definitely has to count for something, doesn’t it? This doesn’t really relate to the question at all, but just wanted to put this out there—make sure to read Murder on the Orient Express before this one as it does spoil it!
9. Book You Read In 2020 That You Would Be MOST Likely To Re-Read Next Year?
I’d really like to reread Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia in 2021. I read it in October and loved it, but I think it deserves a reread. It’s a complex and multi-layered story and I think I would only enjoy it more a second time around so I could pick up on different things and whatnot. On top of that, it is such a perfect book for October and I’m not really much of a horror reader, but I would probably wait for around that time of year again but either way, I think it’ll be a really fun reread. If I do end up doing that, I’m sure I’ll end up making a post or video or something about it! And this could absolutely fit as an answer for the next question too…
10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2020?
So many beautiful covers this year that it was hard to pick just the one, but I did. So the ones I went with was Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez which I just read in December. It’s a really interesting read, though a little cliche and strange in places. But that cover? Um, hello gorgeous. This image really doesn’t do it justice, it’s so beautiful and all the colours really stand-out against the dark background even though there’s only a few different shades. And just all the little animals? They’re adorable. And the moon? Ugh, yes. Just the level of detail in this cover and how it all ties into the story. It’s so wonderful. Isabel Ibanez was actually the cover designer for this one, so it makes sense that everything is so well thought out and connected to the actual story.
11. Most memorable character of 2020?
Maybe a little bit of cheat here, because I did read these characters in 2019—I read books two and three in this series in 2020, so I think it counts. But the team from the Narroway trilogy will always have a special place in my heart. The protagonist, Ottilie, is absolutely wonderful and just such a great character to read about. Her friends are equally as wonderful, and each of them feels so real—though I have to admit I love Ned a little more than anyone else. They’ve all grown a lot through this series and it’s truly been a pleasure to read this series and to be on this journey with them. This series deserves so much more hype and love than what it gets, so be warned that just because I’m finished the series, it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop talking about them.
12. Most beautifully written book read in 2020?
I will never miss a chance to talk about There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett, which is absolutely one of the best books I’ve read this year. Not only is it a beautiful, and at times, heartbreaking story but Parrett’s writing is absolutely stunning. This book is a true love letter to grandparents and how much they can fill our lives with love and light. I lost my Nanna this year—she was an incredibly strong and wonderful woman and I learnt so much from her and my Pop, and my Grandma and Pa too, who both passed away a number of years ago. It’s because of my love for them and all the wonderful memories I got to share with them all, and continue to share with my Pop, that this book will always hold a special place in my heart.
13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2020?
I don’t know if I really had any life-changing books this year, and honestly, that’s probably okay considering the year it’s been. One that did really get me thinking was In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. I read a few books about toxic and abusive relationships this year as part of various book clubs and projects, but this was really the one that sticks with me. I think, in part, because it is such a personal take. You are there with Machado as she goes back through different traumatic events in this relationship she was in, and it really felt like I was there with her. Maybe this has something to do with the fact I could see similarities between a friend of mine and Machado, but I felt powerless and upset for her. It made me think a lot about my own relationships and those of friend’s as well, and maybe, after all this, this was a life-changing book.
14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2020 to finally read?
In theory, I know why I waited so long to read The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan—I like approximately 5 non-Christie crime books that I’ve read and I was worried this wouldn’t make the list. I’m still not really a crime and/or thriller reader, but I did genuinely enjoy this one. It had it’s predictable moments, but on the whole, it was really well-written and engaging. It’s very rare that I stick with a book like this for more than 100 pages, but I found that I didn’t want to put this one down. It was kind of slow read, but I enjoyed just taking my time with it.
15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2020?
I don’t often remember quotes, but I did write down a few this year. The favourite of which is; We lose people in the form of them that we knew and loved from Below Deck by Sophie Hardcastle.
16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2020?
My shortest book this year was Dear Cassandra by Melissa Jennings, which is a really beautiful poetry collection I was lucky enough to get for review. The longest was Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon—I’m one of the very few people who didn’t really enjoy this.
17. Book That Shocked You The Most
Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson. Could it really be anything but Allegedly? If you’ve ever read anything by Jackson before, then you can probably guess that this is filled with twists and turns and so, so many oh-my-god moments and Allegedly is no different. This follows a teenage girl living in a group home after she was convicted of killing a baby when she was only a little girl herself. This will honestly mess you up for life because it’s just so freaking good. You never really know quite who or what to trust, and Jackson has this incredible way of making you feel so tense and uncomfortable. I was so shocked by it from start to finish, and I really don’t think Jackson gets even a smidge of the respect and hype that she really deserves.
18. OTP OF THE YEAR (you will go down with this ship!)
I have to go with Anthony and Kate from The Viscount Who Loved Me by Julia Quinn. I absolutely adore both of them, both together and apart. They’re both so stubborn but also adorable and cute. I just read this in November, but I have to say my love for Anthony was only strengthened by the Netflix adaptation. Let’s not get into that discussion, other than to say that I was really impressed by the way Jonathan Bailey played him. If they do renew it for a second season, I hope they find someone amazing for Kate who can play off the incredible banter these two have in the book. Writing all of this done has just made really want to reread this one now…
19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
Sticking with the above and just going for the entire Bridgerton family.
20. Favorite Book You Read in 2020 From An Author You’ve Read Previously
I just realised I haven’t talked about Shaun Tan at all for this post and that is just sacrilege. I read quite a few from him this year, but I think The Arrival is my favourite, both of 2020 and of everything I’ve read from him so far. This is a sort of picture book, graphic novel that doesn’t feature any words and yet the story is so clear and heartbreaking nonetheless. Shaun Tan creates these incredibly detailed worlds in all of his works, filled with social commentary and adorable creatures—it’s basically the perfect mix. I would really highly recommend picking of some of Tan’s books, they also make wonderful gifts for any writer or artists friends you might have.
21. Best Book You Read In 2020 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else/Peer Pressure/Bookstagram, Etc.:
Angel picked out The Last Letter by Rebecca Yarros for me to read as part of our ‘best friend picks my TBR’ challenge this year, and I’m so glad she did. Honestly, I’ve been listening to Angel gush about Rebecca Yarros for years but was never super interested in reading her until now. This was one of the many, many books that made me sob like an actual baby this year, which means it definitely earned a spot in my favourites for the year and probably forever. I’ll definitely be continuing to read more from Yarros in the coming year, so be prepared for more talk of my crushed heart.
22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2020?
I always like to answer this question as which author have I developed a literary crush on. This has to be Angie Cruz again. As I said, she’s a definite new auto-buy author.
23. Best 2020 debut you read?
I didn’t do so well with the debuts next year, but I’ll be focusing more on that in 2021!
24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year?
The level of detail in Anna James’ Pages & Co series continues to blow me away. For those of you who might not know, the premise of this series is that the main character, Tilly, can wander into books where she gets to meet characters like Anne from Anne of Green Gables and Alice from Alice in Wonderland. It’s a delight of a series, truly. This is the third book in the series and I really didn’t think the world could get any richer, and then she went and did this incredible thing that I won’t spoil but bought me so, so, so much happiness and I just love this series with my whole heart.
25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
Taking it right back to January when I read Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern while on holiday. So this is a graphic novel that’s part dark Gothic, part Lord Byron just fucking shit up. It’s a wild, wild ride and I loved every moment of it. For one, I’m a big Lord Byron fan. And secondly, Emily McGovern is the creator of My Life As A Background Slytherin so the whole thing was just wonderful and wacky. It’s not going to be for everyone—I think you have to have an interest in this very niche overlap of genres, but it made me smile and laugh and tear up a little too.
26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2020?
I cry at literally everything so this is always hard one to pick to a book for, but When One Person Dies The Whole World Is Over by Mandy Ord has to take the cake this year. This is a comic that follows Ord for an entire year and because of that, it’s an extremely personal book. It deals with mental illness, friends, family, relationships, creativity and art, and even shitty retail jobs. It’s also kind of heartbreaking—after finishing it I literally sat on my couch and sobbed for ages because it really felt like I’d been there with Mandy Ord for this whole year, as well as finding a lot of connection between the events in here and things that I’ve gone through.
27. Hidden Gem Of The Year?
Another sort of graphic work here. I had to pick The Brontes: The Fantastically Feminist (and Totally True) Story of the Astonishing Authors by Anna Doherty for this one. There are two other books in this series—one about Ada Lovelace and the other about Michelle Obama, and this is the one with the most reviews on Goodreads…it has 40. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that these are children’s non-fiction and kids aren’t jumping on Goodreads to let us know what they think, but then Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls is read widely by all-ages, anyway these are just such beautiful books. They deserve way more love.
28. Book That Crushed Your Soul?
Remember what I said about crying at everything? THIS BOOK. WOW. OKAY. This was truly another, sit down and sob into a pillow for a really long time kind of book. This is a lot about trauma and loss, but finding and healing yourself afterwards as well. There was a particular section in which the protagonist is feeling a lot of grief, and let me tell you, that reopened some old wounds there. I don’t want to turn anyone off this book because it’s one of the most beautiful things I read this year, but I highly recommend having someone or something to snuggle up with afterwards. Maybe a couple of hundred cups of tea too.
29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2020?
Since I’ve already spoken about Shaun Tan, let me tell you about another graphic artist I really adore—Nicki Greenberg. This is Hamlet, which is literally a graphic novel adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. How is it unique? All the characters are these little strange creatures, but it’s also set out as if it were literally staged. There are these gorgeous curtain breaks in between the scenes in which you get to see the characters cause some extra mischief, and it’s just an incredible adaptation. I would highly recommend looking into this one.
30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
Deep breaths, Ely, deep breaths. So you might have discussed that this was definitely one I didn’t like. Here’s the thing, this was released in 1995 and it’s a non-fiction piece looking at these female University students who filed charges of sexual harassment against their lecturer. Helen Garner is sort of heralded as this incredible female writer here in Melbourne who has done a lot for the book industry and for other women. Now I’m going to share with you part of what I wrote for my review on Goodreads—it ‘felt decidedly unfeminist. Garner comes off as privileged, especially in her refusal to leave the young women alone despite her admitting that she knows her writing will hurt them more. I was disappointed to see that she often sided with the men—I know the feminism has changed since Garner’s day and even the 90s when this was all taking place, but it was sad to see the lack of support and understanding for other women that Garner and a number of her different friends and contacts had.’ So yeah, you could say this made me mad.
1. New favorite book blog/Bookstagram/Youtube channel you discovered in 2020?
I’m always bad at remembering who I found when, but I absolutely love Caitlin from The Lit Review. Her channel is incredible—her TBR game LitLand is my favourite video to watch every month, and she’s just a truly lovely person.
2. Favorite post you wrote in 2020?
I think one of my favourites was actually this post I did looking back at my original review of Rebecca. I had a lot of fun doing it and it’s just very different from my usual thing.
3. Favorite bookish related photo you took in 2020?
Any bookish photo that also involved Percy is a definite favourite for me. One of my absolute favourite photos to take is showing Percy illustrations of cats, particularly from children’s books. I’ve had some downright adorable ones in the past, but I think my favourite from this year is this one. He had opened his eyes just before I took the photo and then shut them again once he realised what I was doing. Poor little thing is sick of me showing him adorable kitties and then telling him he’s still the cutest one.
4. Best bookish event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, etc.)?
For obvious reasons, there wasn’t a whole lot of this in 2020. In fact, I didn’t really attend that many virtual events either. Most of the events I did were more art history based for my degree, which were still amazing but don’t really fit into this survey.
5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2020?
Well, it has to be going solo on this blog, right? I will forever be thankful for the time I got to spend on Of Wonderland and of the constant love and support I received (and continue to receive) from Aly and Inge. But it was time to go out on my own and I’ve loved being able to do that this year. I also owe a huge thanks to my bestie Angel for helping me every step of the way.
6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
I’m probably one of the very few people who found this year not so challenging when it came to blogging and reading. Blogging is very much an outlet for me, so when I was feeling depressed and anxious this year I just blogged, and obviously I was feeling that way a lot with everything going on.
7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?
My top post by far was my Spring TBR, which is pretty unsurprising to me as it was a Top Ten Tuesday post and we all know that they usually do well, right? If we ignore all my TTT posts, then my next most popular one was my review of the 2020 Rebecca adaptation, and that makes me so happy.
8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?
I had hoped this post on ‘Where To Start With My Favourite Authors’ would get a little more interest than what it did. I personally love posts like this, so I enjoyed putting it together anyway.
9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?
Amplify Bookstore, hands down. This is a Melbourne-based bookstore run by two BIPOC women who sell books by BIPOC authors. They sell new and second-hand books, and this is just exactly the sort of thing we should all be supporting this year!
10. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
I did a whole video looking back at some of the reading challenges and goals that I had set myself. Check it out if you’re interested!
1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2020 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2021?
Right now, my main focus is The City We Became by N.K Jemisin. I started this one towards the end of November and just didn’t get to read it at all during December, so it’s definitely my top priority for January. I was really, really loving the little bit of it that I did read but there were just so many things I had to get to by the end of the year that this one just kind of fell between the cracks. I think I’ll probably finish this off in the next few days, so I’ll probably speak about it in another post very soon. Crossing fingers that I keep enjoying it as much as I have been!
2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2021 (non-debut)?
Right now this is Lore by Alexandra Bracken as it’s coming out in only a few short days. I’ve been on a book buying ban since the start of December so I haven’t really been looking at books, even ones that haven’t come out yet, so that I can’t tempt myself into buying anything. I did preorder Lore at the end of November, so I feel safe in talking about how excited I am for it. I haven’t read anything from Alexandra Bracken since Passenger in 2016 but I do adore the Darkest Minds series. I’m hoping that this one captures my attention and that I fall in love with it as much as I did those. I’m hoping to pick it up as soon as I can once it arrives!
3. 2021 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?
I’m going to go with Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao. I’m going to include what the author wrote on Goodreads here so that you can all be as excited as me…
Been seeing some confusion about this so thought I’d clarify here: this book is not historical fantasy or alternate history! It’s a story set in a totally different sci-fi world with characters who are only inspired by historical figures from across Chinese history (not just the Tang dynasty). Lots of creative liberties were taken for thematic purposes, so the characters largely only resemble the historical figures in personality and general viiibe. Kind of like comic book adaptations/elseworlds where they play around with the iconic characters’ backstories or place them in radically different life circumstances. All historical references should only be seen as Easter eggs instead of attempts at accuracy, since there’s no specific era to be accurate to 😂
also yes, they’re poly. she has 2 boyfriends and her boyfriends are also boyfriends.You can see the whole note from Xiran Jay Zhao here
4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2021?
This has to be Chain of Iron by Cassandra Clare for this one. I’m really, incredibly, extremely, terrifyingly bad at actually reading series unless it’s a historical romance. So there’s a high chance that Chain of Iron will be one of the like six sequels released in 2021 that I actually manage to read. I know this is going to ruin me—Chain of Gold straight-up ripped out my heart and that was only the first book so there’s basically no chance I’m going to survive this one or the one after. We’ve had a good run, right? I’m finally ready for the Herondale’s, the Carstairs’ and the Fairchild’s to take my soul.
5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2021?
I do have a post about my reading goals going up in a few days time so I’ll leave those for then. But in terms of blogging, I just want to try and stay consistent. I’ve been posting pretty much every two days and I plan to continue with that for now.
6. A 2021 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone (if applicable):
No answer for this one!
Phew, I made it through another year of this survey! I don’t think I have much else to add here, so I hope you enjoyed it.