2020 Reading Goals

2020 Reading Goals

Happy New Year! I hope you had a great holiday season, and that you’re looking forward to another new year – and decade!

While I was on holiday break from work, I organized all of my books by color. I really like it, but we’ll see how long it lasts!

My only real reading goal of 2019 was to read 80 books, which I unfortunately was not able to do. I did read 64 books, which I am still proud of. Last year was a busy year for me between work, traveling, and spending time with friends and family.

I decided that this year I wanted to set out a few more goals for myself in terms of the types of books I read, how many, etc.

Read 65 Books

I could have repeated my goal of 80 books from last year and buckled down to try to hit that goal, but I don’t want reading to feel like a chore. Looking ahead, 2020 is going to be a busy year full of weddings and travel, and I want to be able to enjoy it all without stressing about hitting a lofty reading goal. I’ll need to read about 5.5 books per month, which I think is more than doable.

Read All Unread Books On My Shelves

I went through and created a separate shelf on Goodreads of books that I already own but have not read. At last count there are ~25, so it is my goal to read all of those throughout this year. This is also before my most recent (and first!) Book Outlet order arrives within the next week. Once I work my way through all of the library books sitting on my bookcase, I can give a few of those books a try.

Be Intentional With Selections

I want to make 2020 the year that I really pay attention to the authors I am selecting, as well as the topics I’m reading about. I want to purposefully get outside of my comfort zone. This might mean reading more historical fiction but of a time period I’m not familiar with, or it might mean giving science fiction a try! Part of the reason I love reading is because I love the stories and I love experiencing other viewpoints, so I want to really dive deep into that in 2020.

Read Six Nonfiction Books

Reading nonfiction has never really been a problem for me – I love reading people’s memoirs or reading about a specific topic. In 2019 I didn’t read a whole lot of nonfiction, not like I did in 2017 or 2018. In fact, I think only read four nonfiction books last year, so I want to read at least six books this year.

I’m looking forward to a new year! What reading goals do you have in mind so far for 2020?!

Review: On the Come Up // Angie Thomas

Review: On the Come Up // Angie Thomas

I can’t believe I’ve already finished my first book of 2020! I will admit that I started it on New Years Eve 2019, but I’m still counting it towards 2020 since I did complete it on New Years Day!

I loved Angie Thomas’s first book, The Hate U Give. It was such an important book, one that didn’t shy away from tense, real-life issues that continue to happen right here in America to this day. I had high expectations for On the Come Up. It did not disappoint.

Bri is a sixteen year old high school student who wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. If she can’t be one of the greatest rappers of all time, she at least wants to make it out of her neighborhood, Garden Heights. When Bri was younger, her dad was killed before he made it big as an underground rap star. He was a legend in Garden Heights, so not only did Bri have to grow up without a father, she doesn’t have him there to support her music career.

Not too far into the book, we find out that Bri’s mom loses her job and struggles to make ends meet. Bri’s older brother Trey is working at a local pizza joint to help out their mom with the bills, but Bri still feels some sense of responsibility for also helping out. In her eyes, it is now even more important for her to make it as a rapper.

One morning, Bri gets singled out by the two security guards at her high school for a second search of her bag, and soon she finds herself swung to the ground for resisting. The reason she was resisting? She had been selling candy on school premises to try to buy herself a new pair of Timberland boots, and that’s against school rules.

The video of the incident gets leaked, and people begin to call her a drug dealer. Angry and resentful, Bri writes and records a song about the incident at a local producer’s studio. The lyrics to this song are downright amazing – another piece that Angie Thomas did a phenomenal job on. Eventually Bri uploads the song to a streaming service, and it goes VIRAL. People love it. People hate it. But people can’t stop listening to it.

Soon the lyrics begin to get misconstrued by people all over the country, and a reporter even creates a petition to have the song taken down for inappropriate lyrics. Bri never intended for the song to be used as a call to action, she just wanted to write about the weight of everyone’s expectations and misconceptions.

Bri signs on with a well-known local producer who promises her a record deal, but the only catch is that he needs Bri to play into a role that she doesn’t think she can, or wants, to live up to.

While all of this is going on, Bri also navigates her way through normal teenage issues – first crushes, teenage love, her relationships with her mom/brother/grandparents, and also the worry about whether or not her mom will be able to find a new job so that they could stay in their house and afford food, power, gas, etc.

One of the first things I noticed about this book was that Bri is much more outspoken than Starr from The Hate U Give. There were times where Bri was less like-able than Starr, but I enjoyed her sass and her true feelings. What she goes through in the book is stressful for anyone, let alone a teenager who is trying to figure out her place in the world.

I flew through this book, and I did not want to put it down anytime I had to go to sleep, or go to work, or do anything else, really. Just like The Hate U Give, this book tackles issues that can be hard to face. Aunt Pooh, Bri’s aunt, is deep into drug dealing and all Bri wants is her to be able to support herself some other way. Bri’s mom is a recovering drug addict who has to face that question/hesitation from people every day while she is trying to find a job.

Overall I highly recommend this book not only for the awareness of some of the issues tackled in the book, but also for the pop culture references as well as the song lyrics used in the book.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 (AKA I truly enjoyed reading it and I highly recommend you add it to your TBR list!)

Review: From the Corner of the Oval // Beck Dorey-Stein

Review: From the Corner of the Oval // Beck Dorey-Stein

Following graduation from college, Beck Dorey-Stein ends up in Washington, DC, working a number of odd jobs to get by. Finally tired of just getting by and being unsure about what she wants out of life, she responds to a posting for a clerical job on Craigslist. To Beck’s surprise, the Craigslist posting is not for a small-time clerical job, it is a posting for a stenographer in the Oval Office – Obama’s second-term-Oval-Office. Beck is sure she won’t get the job, but to her surprise, an offer for the position follows soon after her interview.

Beck is the ultimate DC outsider, someone who vehemently resisted the uppity vibes DC gave off, but soon, she finds herself as part of the exclusive team that accompanies the president on every trip and outing.

Throughout the book, Beck takes us with her on some memorable events that took place during Obama’s second term, such as the tragedy in Charleston, SC, Sandy Hook, and the Boston Marathon bombing. We experience the tragedies as well as the triumphs, and even what can be seen as the mundane of her learning the ropes of her new job.

Beck makes friends with other White House women, who have also dropped everything to fly around the world on Air Force One. Beck takes us along as she has relationship trouble with her long-term (and long distance) boyfriends, and her fling with a highly regarded White House staffer.

I thoroughly enjoyed the writing of this book, as it felt like Beck was writing in her journal, or having a conversation with us. Plus I’m a sucker for all books relating to DC or politics, so this was right up my alley! Next up I need to read Alyssa Mastromonaco’s book about her time in the Obama’s White House!

Goodreads stars: 4/5 (AKA I truly enjoyed reading it and I highly recommend you add it to your TBR list!)

Review: Ghosted // Rosie Walsh

Review: Ghosted // Rosie Walsh

Sarah, meet Eddie. Both are in their thirties and neither have found love yet. Sarah and Eddie feel an instant connection with each other. They spend hours at a local pub on the first day that they meet. These hours at a local pub quickly turn into six amazing days full of getting to know each other.

When it’s time for Sarah to head back to her parents’ before returning home to Los Angeles, and to reality, Eddie promises he’ll call. So Sarah is flummoxed when he does not, in fact, call. At all. For days, which then turn into weeks. Sarah has been ghosted.

Sarah starts down this slightly embarrassing, albeit probably very relatable to many people, rabbit hole of trying to find Eddie. She calls and texts, she posts on his Facebook wall, and she even remembers where his pickup soccer team plays their weekly games and tries to find him there.

I’m the midst of Sarah and Eddie’s love story and his later ghosting, there are also letters of remembrance to a mysterious girl, as well as flashbacks to a mysterious accident and the supposed death of a family member, but it is not clear whose family member it is. I thought at first the letters were from Sarah to her sister, and her sister was the one who passed away in the accident.

All roads converge when we find out that it was Eddie’s younger sister who was the girl who passed away, and it’s been Eddie who writes the letters. Years ago, Sarah got into a car race with this boy who she really liked, and her younger sister was in the other boy’s car, while Eddie’s sister was in Sarah’s car. Sarah and the boy were about to collide, when at the last second Sarah swerved to avoid hitting her sister, killing Eddie’s younger sister.

This revelation explains why Eddie ghosted Sarah – he found out that she was the girl driving the car, and he felt so guilty for falling in love with her that he couldn’t face it. It also didn’t help that his mother has spent her entire life wishing ill upon Sarah and her family for the death of her daughter. Sarah and Eddie work through their troubles and eventually end up with a baby, and Sarah even gets to reconnect with her sister, who never stopped blaming her for the accident and her best friend dying. The last scene in the book features Eddie’s mother holding her grandchild and flashing a small smile to Sarah.

I really enjoyed reading this book. At times I was so embarrassed for Sarah when she was doing so much to try to find Eddie, but I think that’s what made you understand how much she truly loved Eddie. She would do anything to try to find him, and at times she questions herself. She leans on her network to bring herself back up, much like any woman would. The writing kept me hooked from the beginning to the end, and I liked that there was also the mystery of the letters. Not only was it a love story, but it also kept you guessing, trying to see how all the pieces fit together.

Goodreads stars: 4/5 (AKA I truly enjoyed reading it and I highly recommend you add it to your TBR list!)

Review: My Oxford Year // Julia Whelan

Review: My Oxford Year // Julia Whelan

Ella has always dreamed of studying at Oxford University. It’s been a part of her life’s plan since the time she was 13 years old. As a 24 year old, she not only has finally made it to Oxford as Rhodes Scholar, she is also offered a dream job working on a presidential candidate’s campaign upon her return from her year-long, Once in a Lifetime Experience.

Ella’s first day at Oxford is nothing what she expected, when it is ruined by a loud-mouthed local who nearly runs her over. Of course, as always seems to happen, that same loud-mouthed local is her English literature professor for her time at Oxford.

Jamie Davenport is not at all enamored with Ella’s American ways, and Ella begins to think maybe Oxford isn’t the place for her. She makes some very quirky but very great friends who show her the ways of Oxford. Some chance encounters and drinks later, Ella and Jamie embark on a friend’s-with-benefits arrangement, sneaking around campus and the local town to see each other.

Things take a turn for the worse when Ella discovers a grave secret Jamie has been hiding, and she has to make a choice between her future in American politics, and the man she loves.

I laughed, I cried, I smiled, I felt basically every emotion in the midst of these pages. Ella is someone you find yourself connecting with because she’s so real, and the author did an amazing job of making her emotions and her thoughts come through the pages so you felt the way she was feeling. Ella’s Once in a Lifetime Experience made me want to get out there and have my own Once in a Lifetime Experience – once I find out what that is 😂.

Goodreads stars: 4/5 (AKA I truly enjoyed reading it and I highly recommend you add it to your TBR list!)

Review: Pieces of Her // Karin Slaughter

Review: Pieces of Her // Karin Slaughter

Andy knows everything about her mother, Laura – or so she thinks. Laura is a speech therapist, a business owner, and knows just about everyone in their sleepy seaside town of Belle Isle. From Andy’s perspective, what more is there really to know about her mother, other than that she’s Laura, her mom?

Andy and Laura are out at a local diner to celebrate Andy’s birthday when a local man barges in to the diner and starts shooting. Andy sees a side of her mother she has never seen before. She is downright astonished by the fearlessness, speed, and intensity her mother exhibits when she faces death head-on.

This is one of the first peeks Andy sees into her mother’s past. After some harrowing, near-death experiences, Andy is on the run after her mother begs her to flee, forcing her to promise to not get in touch until there is no more trouble at home. Soon, Andy finds herself behind the wheel of a very old, very mysterious wagon, which was hidden away in a storage locker no less. Who is Laura?

From this point on in the book, the storyline alternates between Andy’s time on the road and a series of scenes in 1986. I knew that Laura must be one of the characters mentioned in the 1986 storyline, but I could not figure it out until the very end. The characters introduced in the 1986 storyline deal with the cult mentality, and a harmful one at that. The cult is led by a shockingly, so incredibly well-done – on Slaughter’s part – sociopath.

The book keeps you on the edge of your seat trying to figure out where the story is going to twist and turn next. I felt like every four or five pages I was shocked at where the story was headed, and could not predict anything. I felt myself rooting for both Andy and Laura during their respective points-of-view. In the beginning and some of the middle of the book, I found myself frustrated at Andy. And maybe that was the point, but she was so complacent and accepting of everything that happened to her, and she rarely made the effort to have something happen for her. It was incredibly refreshing to read about her adventures on the road – her quick-thinking, her split-second decisions, regardless of whether they are messy or not.

This is the second Karin Slaughter book I’ve read, and I love how she mixes the thriller, mysterious vibes with sentimental moments. This book, similar to the other one I’ve read by her (The Good Daughter) is full of blood, guts, and gore. The blood, guts, and gore does not make up the whole story though, only adding to it when necessary.

Goodreads stars: 4/5 (AKA I truly enjoyed reading it and I highly recommend you add it to your TBR list!)

Review: Circe // Madeline Miller

Review: Circe // Madeline Miller

This book left me breathless with admiration. It has a kickass protagonist. While it reads more like a women’s fiction novel than a historical fiction novel, it was a time period that I remembered very little about from school. I didn’t take any mythology classes in college, so high school is really the last time I remember reading about mythology in any capacity.

Plot Summary: Circe is the daughter of Helios, god of the sun. She is born different from those in her family – she is not powerful like her father, nor beautiful like her mother. Circe soon turns to mortals for companionship, believing herself more similar to mortals than the gods she descends from. Circe learns she has the propensity for witchcraft, after she turns an enemy into one of the most storied monsters in mythology. Zeus is threatened by this, and he banishes Circe to an island for all eternity. Her family does not stand up for her, because Circe has never fit in with her parents or her siblings.

Once on her private island, Circe spends days and nights learning and strengthening her abilities. She tames wild beasts and mixes potions to save herself from threatening mortals, who see an easy target in a woman living alone on a deserted island. Almost from the very beginning, Circe finds her path crossing with many of the most notable gods and creatures in mythology: Daedalus and Icarus, Medea, Odysseus, and many others. All of Circe’s actions lead her to the fateful end, where she is pitted against one of the strongest Olympians, who is enraged when Circe does not grant her the one thing she wants most.

My Review: Having not read about mythology since high school, I was hesitant to pick up this book because I thought I would be lost in the web of characters. Right from the very beginning, the author introduced Circe and the other characters in such a way that you recognized the important gods and creatures, and it felt like the secondary characters blended in seamlessly in the world she had written. The book never felt long or drawn out; the story of Circe kept progressing and moving towards a conclusion. This was interesting because as a god, Circe could live forever. Circe’s time on the island spanned centuries, but it read like only mere days had passed from one visitor or event to the next.

I found that I could not put the book down because I needed to know what happened. I’m not sure if I would feel the same way had I been more knowledgeable about mythology and known everyone’s stories. I believe I still would be enraptured by the story of Circe herself. Madeline Miller wrote an amazing character, one you wanted to root for throughout the entire story.

Circe – though she is a capable witch who has proven herself time and again against powerful foes – is filled with flaws and scars. She turned an enemy into a powerful monster – how many times have we as humans probably dreamt of turning our enemies into monsters? Circe is relatable and has been through so much as a woman. She has spent her entire life wanting to be accepted by her family, and then she comes to terms with her circumstances and accepts that she can choose who she surrounds herself with.

Only that: we are here. This is what it means to swim in the tide, to walk the earth and feel it touch your feet. This is what it means to be alive

Goodreads stars: 5/5 (AKA I hope you’re already on your way to your local library/Barnes & Noble/used bookstore/Amazon.com account to rent/reserve/purchase it!)