The Mid-Year Book (F)reakOut Extravaganza – Favorite Books of 2020 So Far

The “mid-year book freakout” tag has been going around the interwebs for a few years now, and just like last year (and the year before) we decided to join in the fun. (Counting this for “F” in our Summer A to Z blogging event.)

1. Best Book We’ve Read So Far

Tanya: The Bear and the Nightingale, Katherine Arden. This was a difficult decision because there are about 7 other books that I have rated 5 star reads so far, but this was my first favorite and first book hangover (A Few Reading Firsts For 2020 … Already).

the bear and the nightingale

Kim: Man this decision was soooo hard!! Already I’ve rated 13 books 5 stars this year. I am generous with my ratings but that’s still a lot of books to choose between! Like Tanya, I really loved The Bear and The Nightingale, Katherine Arden but ultimately I think my favorite so far has been Polaris Rising, Jessie Mihalik simply because it got the most reaction out of me throughout. I laughed, cried, gasped, etc. I just loved reading it. It was a lot of fun.

2. Best Sequel We’ve Read So Far

Tanya: The sequel to my favorite book so far – The Girl in the Tower, Katherine Arden. You know you love a book when you reach for either another book by the author (if there’s one) or another book in the series. In this case I read the 2nd and then the final, 3rd book in the series – back to back.

The Girl in the Tower

KimNetwork Effect (Murderbot #5), Martha Wells was so good! I’ve been waiting on pins and needles to read this for months. The first four books are novellas so I was really excited to read this full length novel. Plus, there is a 6th novel planned and with the way the 5th book ended, I think I’m gonna like it.

3. New Release We Haven’t Read Yet, But Want To

Tanya: The Ballard of Songbird and Snakes (The Hunger Games prequel), Suzanne Collins from 2020 New Releases on Our Radar. From the Goodreads reviews, it seems people either love or hate this book – and love or hate that it’s from the perspective of president Snow.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Kim: None. I haven’t been paying much attention to new releases lately.

4. Biggest Disappointment

Tanya: Milkman, Anna Burns – DNF @ 75%. I just couldn’t anymore. I didn’t care about the characters, I didn’t care about the plot, I didn’t care about the story. I was just listening to the audiobook praying it would end soon … and once I moved on (once that plane ride that I was listening to it on was over), I couldn’t bring myself to pick it up again.

KimIn The Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado – DNF @ 60%. This book has so many high ratings and lots of people seemed to love it. Unfortunately the format didn’t work for me. I think it was worse because I was listening to it on audio and ultimately it just drove me nuts. I couldn’t focus on the story at all and completely lost interest.

5. Biggest Surprise

Tanya: Pet, Akwaeke Emezi. I was browsing Overdrive and saw the cover, which is amazing, and then read the summary. I hadn’t heard about the book before, but decided to listen to it. Wow! I was not expecting to be completely bowled over by this.

There are no more monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. With doting parents and a best friend named Redemption, Jam has grown up with this lesson all her life. But when she meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colours and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question — How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

KimLike A Love Story, Abdi Nazemian was wonderful. I kind of spaced that this was set in New York during the AIDS epidemic until I started reading and it blew me away. The book is beautifully written. Highly recommend.

It’s 1989 in New York City, and for three teens, the world is changing. Reza is an Iranian boy who has just moved to the city with his mother to live with his stepfather and stepbrother. He’s terrified that someone will guess the truth he can barely acknowledge about himself. Reza knows he’s gay, but all he knows of gay life are the media’s images of men dying of AIDS. But then he meets Judy and Art and suddenly everything changes.

6. Most Beautiful Book Cover So Far This Year

Tanya: Pet, Akwaeke Emezi. As I mentioned above, the cover got me. It’s vibrant and unique. The author’s website mentions that the cover art is by Shayma Golden.

Pet (Book) Akwaeke Emezi

Kim: With The Fire on High, Elizabeth Acevedo has the most beautiful cover art. I love the colors and how vibrant it is. Emoni herself is just gorgeous- the head wrap, the shirt, the sprig of herb she’s holding, the hoop earring. I love it all. And there’s something about the white font that I love too. I found this article on Epic Reads about the process of designing the cover. That article shows some early mock ups and their all amazing! I don’t know how they managed to choose. Art is by Erin Fitzsimmons and Erick Davila.

7. Best Audiobook Narration

Tanya: Everything Inside (Stories), Edwidge Danicat – Narrated by Robin Miles AND If It Bleeds, Stephen King – Narrated by Will Paton, Danny Burstein and Steven Weber. Both audiobooks were amazing! First off, Robin Miles – I’m convinced she can do no wrong when it comes to audiobook narrations. I’ve enjoyed her time and time again (3 Of Our Favorite (A)udiobook Narrators). Same thing with Will Patton. He’s narrated other Stephen King books that I’ve listened to on audio, like The Outsider, Doctor Sleep and Mr. Mercedes, and he’s become one of my favorite narrators as well. This is my first experience with Danny Burstein and Steven Weber, but they were also phenomenal.

If It Bleeds

Kim: The Sun Down Motel, Simone St. James was narrated by Brittany Pressley and Kirsten Potter. I really enjoyed the plot and felt that the narrators did a great job of switching back and forth between the different decades. I’ve never heard anything by either of these narrators so this was a pleasant surprise.

8. Shortest Book

Tanya: I’ve read 6 novellas this year, the shortest of which was 144 pages – All Systems Red, Martha Wells and Fatty O’Leary’s Dinner Party, Alexander McCall Smith.

All Systems Red

Kim: At 96 pages, Binti, Nnedi Okorafor is the shortest book I’ve read so far. As soon as I finished the first novella, I went to the library and picked up the full trilogy to keep reading on.

9. Biggest Book

Tanya: Deathless Divide (Dread Nation #2), Justina Ireland. I read this back in March. It was an awesome follow-up to Dread Nation.

Kim: I decided not to participate in Big Book Summer this year so I haven’t read any real whoppers. At 448 pages Polaris Rising, Jessie Mihalik is the longest book I’ve read so far and I listened to that on audio.

10. Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year

Tanya: At Rain City Reads, I saw Anxious People, Frederik Bachman is coming out on September 2020. I’ve read 4 books by Bachman, and I’m looking forward to this collection of short stories about

In a series of dysfunctional testimonies after the event, the witnesses all tell their version of what really happened and it’s clear we have a classic locked-room mystery on our hands: How did the robber manage to escape? Why is everyone so angry? And: What is WRONG with people these days?

Kim: Honestly, my most anticipated release was Network Effect, Martha Wells which came out in May. As for the second half of the year, I’d say I’m very interested in The Other Side of The Sky, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. 

Prince North’s home is in the sky, in a gleaming city held aloft by intricate engines, powered by technology. Nimh is the living goddess of her people on the Surface, responsible for providing answers, direction—hope. North’s and Nimh’s lives are entwined—though their hearts can never be. Linked by a terrifying prophecy and caught between duty and fate, they must choose between saving their people or succumbing to the bond that is forbidden between them.

So tell us – have you read any of the books we mentioned? Did you like or dislike? What’s your favorite book read this year so far?


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