Hello hello hello!! Long time, no see, everyone!! First things first: HAPPY NEW YEAR! How have you all been?? I hope you’ve all been staying safe and happy and are well on your way to achieve all of your 2021 goals. I personally am doing very nicely! I know I disappeared on you for like a month (it’s somehow already three weeks into January?!?!) and I’m sorry about that… I blame it on having more winter break homework than anticipated, plus lack of motivation and procrastination.
But nonetheless! It’s finally time for me to gush about all the bookish things that I loved in 2020, and some not-so-bookish things as well. And stay till the end for my resolutions for the new year! I’ve also attempted to make some *aesthetic* graphics, so please appreciate my extensive skill in utilizing Canva’s free clipart 😅
I hope you enjoy this very, very long wrap-up of my 2020! So without further ado, here’s the post!
Firstly, may I present to you my favorite books of the year! These are listed in the order that I read them, no way am I ranking perfection against perfection… 😅
The Illuminae Files, by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Finally picking up this series was definitely one of the highlights of 2020. Each installment of this trilogy is told in a very unique format of a collection of hacked documents, and it makes for an absolutely addictive sci-fi adventure. So addictive, in fact, that I read each of the books within one or two sittings. There’s romance, found family vibes, banter (lots of it), mind-blowing twists, deadly plagues, discussions about humanity and ethics, and one very morally gray AI system that I may or may not have fallen in love with. My personal favorite from the series is Gemina — the plot twists are never-ending, with a heavy but digestible dose of quantum physics. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted.
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, by H. G. Parry
Charming? Delightful? Serotonin booster? Complex sibling relationships? An ode to literary analysis and bibliophily? How about all of the above 🤩 With a eye-catching premise of a main character who has the ability to summon things out of books, the author takes us on an truly magical adventure that features Dorian Gray as an Internet predator, Excalibur casually sitting in the faculty cabinet, and random Dickensian characters showing up as your intern, among other things. I swear, H. G. Parry wrote this book just for me. I really can’t say enough about it.
All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely
This was an incredibly nuanced discussion of racism in America that I’m still in awe of. The authors take two very different perspectives and have them collide through a shocking case of police brutality, and the effect is POWERFUL. Rashad and Quin are each beautifully developed, although Quin’s character arc especially stands out for me. The way he goes from being a passive bystander to realizing that he is part of the problem to standing up for a better world… amazing. It’s a must-read, and I can definitely see why the book’s been challenged/banned. (The Fraternal Order of Police in Charleston, South Carolina, accused All American Boys and The Hate U Give as being “an indoctrination of distrust of police” and requested that it be removed from a high school’s suggested reading list, which is absolutely NOT what those two books are going for, but um… okay?)
Spin the Dawn, by Elizabeth Lim
I was expecting a lot from this book after seeing it screamed about all over the bookish community, and it completely lived up to the hype for me! The magical world-building combined with the romance that I found myself rooting for with everything in me… and the simple but hard-hitting prose… please don’t ask me why I haven’t picked up the sequel yet. The plot was that perfect mix of whimsy and logic and I loved it so much??? Also, I can’t stress this enough, but the protagonist’s weapon of choice is MAGIC SCISSORS!! ✂️ Ugh, why am I so obsessed with this book.
The Silence of Bones, by June Hur
The historical thriller I didn’t know I needed in my life!!! This was one of the best surprises of the year that took me aback with how much I loved it. The characters were so so three-dimensional and flawed but at the same time so perfect. The writing was flowing and beautiful, the atmosphere was EVERYTHING, and it’s just *flails* so good. And it takes place in Joseon (modern-day Korean Peninsula)!! The smallest aspects of Korean culture that were depicted meant the world to me 🥺 Definitely an author I’m planning to read more of!
Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo
I finally did it people!! I finally read the most hyped YA books in the history of YA books, and I have no regrets. Well, my shattered-into-a-million-pieces heart has quite a few of them, but otherwise? This duology (soon to be trilogy? Hi, mysterious third book? You gotta give us something here, Leigh) deserves all the love it’s already gotten. Seriously, it’s given me a wonderful cast that I’d do anything for, a few of my top OTPs of all time, plus one of the most brilliant character arcs I have ever beheld (MATTHIAS HELVAR ❤️). So good 😍
A Sky Beyond the Storm, by Sabaa Tahir.
What is thisssss. The final installment of one of my all-time favorite series released in 2020, and let’s just say it didn’t disappoint. The stunning character arcs, the swoony but also really emotionally demanding ships, the wonderful writing, the twists and turns and DEATHS and MORE DEATHS and TEARS and MORE TEARS and ELIAS VETURIUS and LAIA and *faints* 😍🤩😱😭 You HAVE to pick up this series if you haven’t yet. I, for one, am so ready to cry my way through the books a second time once my hold for Torch finally arrives.
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers, by Deborah Heiligman
This was my last read of the year, and it. was. amazing. Heiligman has truly created something beautiful here. It’s just — beautiful. I’m honestly pressed to describe it using another adjective. Vincent and Theo are so so well-developed, it’s like they jump off the page ahh 🤩 And their relationship is one of the most beautiful, inspirational, heartwarming things I have ever read about in my life. It’s — I just can’t deal with this. My heart is broken. My eyes are puffy from crying.
(I shed more tears for this than I did for Sky and Crooked Kingdom combined, which is… quite the feat.) I need more of this in my life. Go read it.
As you all must know at this point, I am a hugeeeeee fan of musicals. And staying at home all year, it turns out, is a fantastic opportunity for finding new favorites! I know this is a weirdly specific interest of mine, so feel free to skip over this section if you feel so inclined 😉
Starry: Original Concept Recording (Spotify)
Hahaha, absolutely nobody is surprised. This pop-rock reimagining of the lives of the Van Gogh brothers was a completely unexpected favorite and I really can’t exaggerate how much I love it. The musical motifs?? The harmonies?? Joe Viba’s gorgeous singing?? The thing Dylan Saunders does with his voice during “The Road”? The switched harmonies during “On the Threshold of Eternity”? Literally everything about “The Red Vineyard”? The beautiful lyrics of “The Starry Night”? The bonus tracks?? That one lady at the end of “Wheat Fields” who declares that Vincent is the greatest artist to ever live and consequently makes me cry every. single. time?!?! AHHHHHH.
The Hamilfilm (Disney+)
Otherwise known as literal, tangible perfection. I was lucky enough to see Hamilton live on Broadway before this pandemic (but not with the original cast, I was like four years too late for that haha), which was obviously inexpressibly incredible, but I think the Disney+ version was even better in some ways. The way the Proshot was edited was truly jaw-dropping — the camera really captures everything happening on the stage in a magical way. I loved every single moment of it, from the emotion on Hamilton’s face during “That Would Be Enough” (which made me cry, by the way), to the mind-blowing choreography of “Satisfied,” to the sheer joy on Hamilton and Burr’s faces in “Dear Theodosia,” to the quiet devastation of “It’s Quiet Uptown,” and of course Eliza’s famous gasp during the finale. The tiniest details, guys. Priceless.
The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall (YouTube)
I watched the 25th anniversary performance of this Broadway classic for the first time this April, and it was PHENOMENAL. The dancing, scenery, storyline, characters, and above all, the singing enraptured me and have yet to let me go. The performers worked so well together, and their little touches to the script to make it their own was so special. In the final scene, when Christine comes back to return the Phantom’s ring and starts singing “All I Ask of You” and it’s supposed to be directed at Raoul, but the incredible Sierra Boggess sings it to the Phantom (played by the amazing Ramin Karimloo) instead but she goes with Raoul anyway ugh MY HEART BROKE OKAY.
Honorable Mentions: Anne of Green Gables: A New Musical, Hadestown, Newsies, The Greatest Showman
Lastly, here are all the things that I hope to accomplish this year!
⛪ Read the Bible everyday. While I’d really like to try to finish the entire Bible this year, I’m setting my goal as reading from it everyday. I’ve already started Blue Letter Bible’s Blended reading plan on YouVersion, which has you read books of the Bible in a nontraditional sequence (for example, my current readings are from Genesis and Romans, which is quite the interesting pair). This is a goal that I’ve set for myself for the past few years (and subsequently failed), but I have hope that I’ll be able to fulfill it once and for all in 2021 — with God’s help of course.
✍️ Start writing again. I used to really love writing when I was younger. And by love, I mean love. I recently cleared out my used notebooks and literally half of them were filled with random writing snippets I wrote in elementary. I’m not sure why I stopped writing — probably because of school and time constraints whatnot, but that’s something I want to fix this year. I honestly don’t care about numerical goals, all that really matters to me is getting the stories in my head onto paper.
Reading & Blogging
⭐ Try to give more objective ratings. I’ve noticed that my rating system is extremely biased. My ratings are usually given on the spur of the moment right after I finish a book, which results in me having a preposterously high average rating. Not to say that being generous with your stars is necessarily a bad thing, but giving ratings in the 2-3 stars region is something that really scares me in general. So I want to work on that this year, by being more honest and objective with my thoughts on the books I read.
🪧 Read more books from BIPOC authors. I had a huge wake-up call about the impact of the choices I make about race this year. In the wake of George Floyd’s death, I reevaluated my bookshelf, and shocked by how white my reading choices were, I started shifting my focus to reading and spotlighting BIPOC authors. But it’s far from enough. I want to make this a big priority in 2021, even if it means pushing back reading the super-hyped books, most of which are written by white authors. I’m aiming for to have at least 40-50% of all my 2021 reads to be by authors of color (about 30% of my 2020 reads were by AOC).
📚 Get into Christian fiction. In the last few days of 2020, I started seriously thinking about the lack of religious representation in the books that I read. I went on a researching spree to try to find some YA books with religious characters that I could see myself in… and I swear, if I have to read the words “strict fundamentalist household” one more time I might actually go mad. I try not to be too negative about things in my posts, but I have to say: I’m sick of Christianity (and religion in general) being portrayed as “uncool.” I’m not asking for a deep theological discussion, I just want some indication that it’s okay for teens to have a spiritual life! I’ve had a few stereotypes of my own against Christian fiction, but it looks like it’s time to get over them. I really feel for followers of other religions who feel the same way about the portrayal of their beliefs and have no genre — however niche — to turn to.
💌 Don’t make blogging a chore for myself. You know, I was originally going to put “Post consistently on the blog” as one of my resolutions, but that sort of went out the window when I didn’t post for an entire month. So I changed my resolution! I don’t want to stress about blogging, ever. I want to post whenever I can, and I love interacting with you all more than I can say, but I don’t want to push myself further than I can go. It’s important to learn to step back when it becomes too hard to manage.
And so we conclude yet another overlong post of
almost over 2K words. I’m sorry, guys. I never knew I was this talkative until I started this blog 😅
I just want to end by saying thank you to each and every one of you for supporting my tiny blog this past year. I’ve been blogging for over nine months now (!!), and every step of this journey thus far has been a blessing. Thank you for everything, and please know that you all mean the absolute world to me ❤️
Let me know what you think of this post in the comments! Do we share any favorite books of the year? Any resolutions? I’d love to chat with you down below! 🤗
Take care of yourselves, friends, and late though this post is, here’s to a great 2021!