2020 is officially drawing to a close and with it my time to squeeze in any more reads. I've been content with my reading this year despite this, even if I know I won't quite be reaching my Goodreads goal of 50 books. I've decided not to stress about the numbers and instead just enjoy the last few days of the wild year that has been 2020. After everything, it can only, hopefully, go up from here - or at least it can't get worse, right?
I have been grateful to 2020 because of all the amazing books I got to escape into during the worst of times. Some I'd had on my tbr for ages, such as Serpent & Dove, and others were new on my radar, such as Final Serenade by N.N. Britt. There were so many wonderful reads released this year with incredibly diverse characters and top-notch writing that brightened up an otherwise dreary year. For once, I'm choosing to look on the positive side of the mess that has been 2020 by compiling a list of my favorite books of the year.
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Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5) My Review
Trigger Warnings: Mentions of Homophobia and Transphobia
Description: Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can't get rid of him.
When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.
However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school's resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He's determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.
My Thoughts: Cemetery Boys was one of those rare few pleasant surprises of the year. It is the debut of author Aiden Thomas which meant it was my first dive into their work. I went in excited for a gay ghost story and it ended up surpassing my lofty expectations by a mile. You come for the gay fantasy rom-com and stay for the heart and humor that suits lovers of any genre. It doesn't matter if it isn't the usual book you'd pick up because the author creates a book that transcends boundaries and experiences with plot and characters such as Yadriel, Julian, and Maritza.
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5) My Review
Description: First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations. The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince.
As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?
My Thoughts: Red, White & Royal Blue was a book I picked up after hearing everyone rave about it. I'm always excited for an LGBTQ+ romance so to find one like this one was awesome. The book takes the comedic and serious moments of being LGBTQ+ with equal weight as Henry and Alex discover their identities. I supremely enjoyed the story with larger than life characters that go far beyond just the main two. There is never a dull moment in RW&RB as you follow the shenanigans on the page that never seem to slow down.
Serpent & Dove // Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin
Description: Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.
Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.
Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou's, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.
The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou's most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.
And love makes fools of us all.
My Thoughts: I was so late to the party when it came to reading the Serpent & Dove series. I only got around to reading the first book a few months before the second one came out, just in time to order a signed copy though. Both ended up being favorites of mine for 2020. The series went beyond what I could have hoped for and I was so happy to find Blood & Honey didn't suffer from the curse of sequels. I've heard some people say it wasn't as good as the first but, while I do agree that it is a very different book from its predecessor, it also is equally as good in my opinion. If you're looking for a new series to start in 2021 then I highly recommend these books.
A Curse of Roses by Diana Pinguicha
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5) My Review
Trigger Warnings: Homophobia, Internalized Homophobia, Self-Harm, Eating Disorder (Most of this is done in the name of religion)
Description: With just one touch, bread turns into roses. With just one bite, cheese turns into lilies.
There’s a famine plaguing the land, and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Before she can even swallow, her magic—her curse—has turned her meal into a bouquet. She’s on the verge of starving, which only reminds her that the people of Portugal have been enduring the same pain.
If only it were possible to reverse her magic. Then she could turn flowers…into food.
Fatyan, a beautiful Enchanted Moura, is the only one who can help. But she is trapped by magical binds. She can teach Yzabel how to control her curse—if Yzabel sets her free with a kiss.
As the King of Portugal’s betrothed, Yzabel would be committing treason, but what good is a king if his country has starved to death?
With just one kiss, Fatyan is set free. And with just one kiss, Yzabel is yearning for more.
She’d sought out Fatyan to help her save the people. Now, loving her could mean Yzabel’s destruction.
Based on Portuguese legend, this #OwnVoices historical fantasy is an epic tale of mystery, magic, and making the impossible choice between love and duty…
My Thoughts: I'm going to preface this with a disclaimer that I was given an arc of A Curse of Roses but it in no way influenced my enjoyment of it.
When I received a copy of A Curse of Roses from Entangled Teen I was super excited to see a sapphic fantasy book, as a known sapphic myself. It is an #ownvoices book based off of a Portuguese legend. The story deals with serious topics such as self-harm and eating disorders which some readers may find too triggering BUT if you do not then I can't recommend it enough. Yzabel and Fatyan's relationship is the backbone of a book featuring magic and sorcery. They shine a light on love and acceptance not just of Yzabel's 'curse' but also of her own identity.
Final Serenade // One Last Verse by N.N Britt
Final Serenade ★★★★ (4/5) My Review
One Last Verse ★★★★★ (5/5) My Review
Description: A secret affair with your teenage celebrity crush? Yes, please!
Music journalist Cassy Evans believes her career is made when she snags an exclusive interview with rock singer Frankie Blade.
Once a superstar of the generation, Frankie has been a recluse since a freak motorcycle incident sent his career into a tailspin seven years ago. Now that he’s returned to claim back his crown, Cassy hopes to kill two birds with one stone—secure her magazine a top spot in the rankings and meet with the man of her adolescent dreams.
A dinner invitation isn’t what she expects to get out of this interview, but the chemistry between them is undeniable.
With paparazzi watching Frankie’s every move as the two jump into a stormy relationship, Cassy risks her career and her privacy—and possibly her heart—to be with the biggest rockstar on the planet. But is Frankie worth it? Is he the humble man she thinks he is or is he just that good at hiding his demons?
My Thoughts: I know I technically only gave the first book in this series, Final Serenade, 4 stars but the second book more than carried it into 5 star territory. Final Serenade was an absolutely amazing read but what really sealed its place on this list was the sequel. The first book is definitely all about establishing the relationship then the second book kicks off with a BANG. If you're a fan of romance series, which I find generally are hit or miss, then you'll want to check out the angst that is the Final Serenade series. It is easily one of my new all-time favorites and I thank the Facebook ad I saw that convinced me to read it.
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